First Encounters of the Vinyl Kind

October 31, 2011

My first encounter with vinyl records was in England when I was 5 years old, the year was 1957 and rock n roll was everywhere. My Auntie Gwen had the 78 rpm record versions of ‘All Shook Up’ and ‘Hound Dog’ by Elvis Presley. I knew all the words to those songs as she played them so much and I loved Elvis’s voice, but it was the guitar solo and the machine gun snare drum fills on ‘Hound Dog’ that really caught my ear!

Christmas 1962 and my Mum (God bless her) & Dad bought me my first record player. It was a blue & cream Dansette player which was real hi~fi in those days! Along with the record player came five 45 rpm records that Christmas day and what a present they were!. I remember I stacked them up on the Dansette and watched in awe as they dropped down and played one after the other, down the record would drop and across the arm would come and gently drop down on the record. The pleasure I got from this player and the five records will always hold a special place in my heart.

Here are the records I received Christmas 1962

Elvis Presley was still dominating the British charts back in 1962 and this Christmas week he was at No. 1 with ‘Return To Sender’ on the RCA Victor label. At nine years of age I didn’t really know what ‘Return To Sender’ meant by I loved the record anyway!

 Britain’s answer to Elvis, Cliff Richard was at No. 4 with two songs from his film ‘Summer Holiday’ the A~side was ‘The Next Time’ but it was the B~side that I really loved and played to death, the classic ‘Bachelor Boy’ with Hank Marvin and the Shadows playing behind Cliff. Great words!

At No. 6 this week was Let’s Dance by Chris Montez with the spoken count~in 1 2 3 4 , then that driving back beat Indian drum sound and that memorable organ solo which still sounds great today!.

The big Christmas record that year was at No.9 ~ was by Brenda Lee called  ‘Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree’ with that raw Boots Randolph sax solo ~ brilliant and it’s still my favourite Xmas record.

At No.10 in the charts was the futuristic ‘ Telstar ‘ by the Tornadoes with the equally brilliant ‘Jungle Fever’ on the B ~ side. Produced by the one and only Joe Meek, this record was the first British instrumental to top both the British and American charts and started my love of instrumental groups.

The dawn of a new era was just around the corner ~ very soon the Beatles would arrive on the charts and take over the world and almost overnight any act that came before them was all washed up and out of date.

The very first record I went out and bought with my pocket-money was by the Kinks and called ‘All Day and All Of The Night’ for the huge sum of  money six shilling and 8 pence from the big department store in Gray, Essex.                               

Great days ~ Long ago and worlds apart                                                                                                                 

How I loved those records ~ still do!

  


45 rpm ~ A Single Pop Revolution

October 4, 2011

I love the 7 ” inch records that play at 45 rpm (which means ~ revolutions per minute). I have 4000 or so of the blighter’s and in the days before Sgt. Peppers and the then huge sales of LPs ( Long Players) these were the iPods of their day!         

Very simple, they are just an A side and a B side on a 7 ” vinyl record called singles and came  in a record company paper bag.   The big companies in the UK in the 60’s were Decca, Pye, EMI, RCA and  Philips

These records were played on pirate radio stations like Radio Caroline and at the Beeb, sold at local  record stores and their sales made up the music charts of the day in  the UK .

 Teenagers loved them!

On  Thursday evenings the whole family would sit down in front of the telly and watch “ Top of the Pops ” the weekly chart show with DJs (Disc Jockeys) like Jimmy Saville with his long white hair from out of a bottle and a cigar in one hand and a 45 in the other telling us what group or singer had moved up the chart that week. Other DJs on the show were Pete Murray, Stuart Henry and the one and only Tony Blackburn, also let’s not forget Pan’s People dancing up a storm.      

On Friday evening we would watch the stylish Cathy McGowan and the irritating Keith Fordyce present ” Ready Steady Go” with the slogan ” The Weekend Starts Here” and boy it did in one way or another! Cue theme music “54321 “by Manfred Mann and away we go! Essential viewing for any mod teenager who was a dedicated follower of  fashion in swinging London in the 60’s.

On Saturday evening we had the pleasure of  Brian Matthews and ” Thank Your Lucky Stars”  and the unforgettable teenager Janice Nichols of ‘ Oi’ ll give it Foive ‘ fame. and would it be a Hit or a Miss on ‘ Juke Box Jury ” with David Jacobs and how lucky we were to have all these TV shows showing us the best sparkle of the British beat groups and ballad singers. One night in December 63 the Beatles appeared on the “Juke Box Jury” show as the panel of judges and voted the latest Elvis Presley 45 a hit!

Sunday evening we finished it all off with Alan (not ‘alf) Freeman’s  Pick of the Pops ” radio show. After that it was all downhill as the depression set in that evening because Monday morning you would be back at school.                           

Some of the great artists that appeared on these shows were: Dusty Springfield, PJ Proby, The Searchers, Billy Fury, Stones, Sonny & Cher, Beatles, The Seekers, John Barry, Phil Spector and Marianne Faithfull and many more!

The first 45 that I bought was by the Kinks All Day And All Of The Night” c/w “I Gotta Move ”  on Pye Records. This was their second single after ” You Really Got Me’ but more about the Kinks soon pop pickers!


The Fog On The Tyne Is All Mine

September 24, 2011

Newcastle United soccer fans are one of most loyal football fans in the world, week in week out the Toon Army turn up to support their team no matter what division they are in and the people of Newcastle feel the same way about their home town group called Lindisfarne. This British rock group from the 70’s took their name from the little tidal island off the north~eastern coast of England known as Holy Island.                                                                

Signing to the great Charisma record label in 1970 run by the legendary Tony Stratton Smith, their label mates included Genesis, Peter Gabriel and The Nice featuring Keith Emerson.

1970 saw the release of their debut album ‘ Nicely Out Of Tune ‘ a classic folk / rock album which features the song ‘ Lady Eleanor ‘ which became a hit nine months after its initial release date. The album is great , full of great songs and harmonies and has a football sing ~ along atmosphere on some tracks. There is not a bad track on the entire album.

Next album for the band was ‘ Fog on the Tyne ‘ and sometimes the second album can be a let down after the success of the first one as the band is usually on the road touring and have less time to write new songs. Produced by Bob Dylan producer Bob Johnston this is another classic folk rock album from the band and features the top ten single ‘ Meet Me On The Corner ‘  and with the title track both songs became highlights of their live shows.                     

A heavily reworked version of the title track with vocals by footballer  Paul Gascoigne another Newcastle legend was released under the title ‘ Fog On The Tyne ( Revisited ) credited to Gazza and Lindisfarne. It reached No. 2 in the UK charts in 1990.

Lindisfarne were blessed with great singers in Alan Hull, Rod Clements and Ray Jackson. In fact Ray Jackson played mandolin on Rod Stewart’s mega hit ” Maggie May ‘ but Rod forgot his name on the credit on the album. John Peel was used miming on the TV show Top of the Pops playing mandolin, so Ray missed out twice !

Alan Hull was the main songwriter and was a huge talent. On the release of their 3rd album the excellent ‘ Dingly Dell ‘ which was sightly savaged in the UK music press, Hull decided to leave to leave the group and pursue a solo career. In 1973 Alan Hull released ‘ Pipedream ‘ which was like a new Lindisfarne album as three of the band are playing and singing on it! This album is worth finding and features a brilliant distinctive artwork sleeve on the cover as is the album, also ‘ Back To Basics ‘ where Alan Hull plays acoustic  versions of his songs from 1970 onwards is worth finding.                                           

After a brief hiatus, Lindisfarne decided to reform again with the same line up. They hit the charts again in 1978 with the catchy ‘ Run From Home ‘ , but the momentum had been lost and the spirit was not the same.

While working on a new album in 1995, Alan Hull died suddenly from a heart thrombosis. A sad loss, but at least Lindisfarne and Alan Hull left behind a great selection of songs for us to listen too.

We Can All Swing Together !


The Faces ~ Had Me A Real Good Time !

September 8, 2011

After the demise of the Small Faces in 1969 with Stevie Marriott leaving to form Humble Pie, the three surviving members Kenny Jones ( Drums ) Ian McLagan ( keyboards ) and Ronnie Lane ( Bass ) hooked up with Ron Wood and Rod Stewart fresh evacuees from the Jeff Beck Group, and named their new band The Faces.                      

Jeff Beck is quoted as saying that “Wood and Stewart were like a couple of little schoolgirls always giggling and laughing together” and that he was pleased to get rid of them.

The initial Faces albumFirst Step ‘ was released in 1970 and had the name the Small Faces on the front cover. The album features lots of  great charm but is slightly untogether with songs such as ‘ Three Button Hand Me Down ‘  and Dylan’sWicked Messenger ‘ pointing the direction the band would take in the future, but it was really the folky Ronnie Lane song ‘ Stone’ that captured my ear!

I saw the Faces play on the release of their second album ‘ Long Player ‘ at London’s Chalk Farm Roundhouse and what a show it was with Rod and the boys kicking soccer balls out into the audience and all of them drinking wine and brandy on stage. It was a real party atmosphere with the audience joining in for a sing~a~long at every opportunity.                

The second LP ‘ Long Player ‘ once again is a bit messy but with the Faces becoming a great rock n roll live act at this time. Two tracks on the album are live ‘ I Feel So Good ‘ and a brilliant cover of Paul McCartney’sMaybe I’m Amazed ‘ and the party theme of ‘ Had Me A Real Good Time ‘ is great, but once again it is the folk songs supplied by Ronnie Lane that also stand out!

Album No. 3 ‘ A Nod’s As Good As A Wink To A Blind Horse ‘ with it’s great sleeve artwork would be the break~through album for the band . Outstanding songs on this album include ‘ Miss Judy’s Farm ‘ and the funny ‘ Your So Rude ‘ and ‘ Stay With Me ‘ .Every song is a winner and  the band really gel and the songwriting had reached a high point.

Finally the band made the UK chart with the 45 ‘ Stay With Me ‘ which exploded out of the radio helping to propel the album and 45 into the Top Ten. However this was followed closely by the solo success of Rod Stewart with the 45 ‘ Maggie May ‘ and the LP  ‘ Every Picture Tells A Story ‘ with the rest of the Faces feeling like they where his backing band. That wasn’t what the Faces was about with their motto being ‘ All For One and One For All ‘ but the damage had been done within the group, most critically with Ronnie Lane who was very unhappy with the situation as some shows were billed as Rod Stewart & The Faces.                                             

By the time the final album ‘ Ooh La La’ hit the streets it was clearly all over but this LP had some high points with ‘ Cindy Incidentally’ making the pop charts and the title track becoming a fitting finale to a great group and with Ronnie Lane leaving the Faces to join the circus with his new ‘ The Passing Show ‘ band of musicians, big top, clowns and all!

Ronnie Lane was the heart of the band and things were never the same after he left and today Ronnie is sadly no longer with us. Kenny Jones joined the Who for a short while as replacement for Keith Moon. Ian McLagan would tour with Bob Dylan and the Stones and fronts his own Bump band,while Ronnie Wood joined the Stones as Mick Taylor’s replacement.

Rod Stewart would do his Atlantic Crossing to the USA and his many blondes girlfriends, but never had another band to match the Faces. Blessed with a great voice maybe he sometimes reflects on the time when he had major solo and group success all in the space of one year with ‘ Maggie May and ‘ Stay With Me ‘ in the singles chart and ‘ Every Picture Tells A Story ‘ and ‘ A Nod’s As Good As A Wink ‘ in the album charts.                        

So far Rod has resisted calls from Ronnie to sing with the band again ~ so the three remaining Faces ~ Ron, Kenny and Ian have played some live shows with Glen Matlock on bass and Mick Hucknell on vocals. Very good indeed !

Last Orders Please !


Lay Down Your Weary Tune ~ A Forgotten Dylan Classic!

September 6, 2011

In 1969 guitarist Tom McGuinness was at a bit of a loose end after the Manfred Mann band had disbanded after a run of fine hit singles throughout the 60’s. Luckily next door neighbour and drummer Hughie Flint who played in John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers playing on the Beano cover album with Eric Clapton was also at a loose end, so after a few drinks down the pub McGuinness Flint was born.

Next they found the excellent northeast singer Dennis Coulson who had a bit of the strong voice Eric Burdon’s about him and the band was beginning to really take shape, then enter two great songwriters Benny Gallagher and Graham Lyle and everything was in place. 

A record deal with Capitol Records shortly followed and their first album was recorded with Stones producer Glyn Johns at Olympic studios in London. the self ~ titled album McGuinness Flint with the classic coffin cover was issued and the brilliant single chosen was ‘ When I’m Dead and Gone’ climbed all the way to No. 2 on the UK charts and was only kept off the top slot by the unlikely 45 hit ‘ Grandad ‘ by actor Clive Dunn.

Everything was rosy in the McGuinness Flint garden with the album soaring up the charts and the follow~up single ‘Malt & Barley Blues ‘ also making the UK chart, but after some disappointing live shows writers  Benny and Graham decided to leave the band to pursue their own careers as Gallagher & Lyle and were to have their own hits with ‘Heart On My Sleeve ‘ and ‘I Wanna Stay With You’. Both of  them also appeared on early Ronnie Lane / Slim Chance albums. Graham Lyle also had worldwide success for writing Tina Turner’s hit song ‘ What’s Love Got To Do With It ‘.                    

Left twiddling their thumbs, the other three members soldiered on and they brought in their old friend Dixie Dean on bass and saxophone to complete a new line up and because of the loss of the two main songwriters they came up with the idea of recording an album of covers of the more obscure Bob Dylan songs like from the Basement Tapes album which wasn’t released until three years later 1975 but had been widely bootlegged and featured the Band on backing.     

Manfred Mann had always been an admirer of Dylan songs having hits with ‘ If You Gotta Go ‘ ‘ Just Like A Woman ‘ and ‘ The Mighty Quinn ‘ so he was brought in to oversee the sessions as producer.

Lo & Behold was issued in 1972 as Coulson, Dean, McGuinness & Flint and recieved some excellent reviews but died a death with few copies selling but what an extraordinary gem of a record it is, with totally different arrangements and interpretations of these Dylan songs and has picked up a lot of fans over the years and have a great groove to it.

Released in the UK on DJM Records. Dick James was the publisher that set up the Beatles publishing company Northern Songs and in 1972 Coulson, Dean, McGuinness Flint would have been  UK label mates of Elton John.

The title song ‘ Lo & Behold ‘ sounds like the Rolling Stones in full flight and ‘ Get Your Rocks Off ‘ is given a blues rock treatment. The versions of ‘ Eternal Circle ‘ and ‘ Sign of the Cross ‘ are the best versions I have heard.

Full track listing is : Eternal Circle, Lo & Behold, Let Me Die In Your Footsteps, Open Your Door Homer, Lay Down Your Weary Tune, Don’t You Tell Henry,  Get Your Rocks Off, The Death of Emmett Till, Odd & Ends, Tiny Montgomery, I Wanna Be Your Lover and Sign of the Cross.   DJM Records UK 1972.

Lay Down Your Weary Tune c/w Tiny Mongomery was released on DJM as a 45 in the UK.                                                                         

The group disbanded in 1975 but not without leaving their mark and sadly vocalist Dennis Coulson passed away in 2006.


Beatlemania ~ November ’63

August 28, 2011

The Beatles kicked off November 1963 with their Royal Variety performance in the presence of the Queen Mother and  Princess Margaret. This night John Lennon was to announced to the crowd “For those of you in the cheap seats clap your hands to this one:  the rest of you can rattle your jewelry” and then launched into ‘ Twist & Shout ‘ and Beatlemania had arrived in Britain!                           

The Beatles went off on a tour of England and was met by large crowds of female girls screaming and fainting at the very glimpse of the mop tops and most of these shows on this tour were held in cinemas as the boys criss crossed the country for the month getting 300 pounds a night and not being able to hear a thing they were playing!

The single ‘ She Loves You ‘ had been No 1 in the UK charts and would be followed by ‘ I Wanna Hold Your Hand ‘ in late November ’63 selling a million copies before release.

On November 22nd the Beatles second album ‘ With the Beatles ‘ was released with its distinctive black and white half shadow cover and haircuts and I remember the girl who lived across the road Linda coming over to my house with the record and hearing it for the first time. It sounds so fresh and tight,  full of atmosphere and the band deliver a masterpiece with Ringo supplying the back beat for the boys to supply their chunky rhythm and sing their hearts out!. No songs were released as singles in England off this LP but all of the songs are well crafted and are super good !

With the Beatles ‘ was the follow~up to the ‘ Please Please Me ‘ LP which was recorded in one day and this LP had more time spent on it and is well recorded by George Martin and the Beatles sparkle and rock with great playing and harmonies from beginning to end with a few covers, lots of original Lennon and McCartney songs and the first George Harrison composition.      

It Won’t Be Long ‘ starts things off with John on lead vocal and plenty of harmonies then slows with ‘ All I’ve Got To Do ‘ followed by Paul singing ‘ All My Loving ‘ brilliantly. Next up is George with his own song  singing ‘ Don’t Bother Me’ . Then we have the rocker ‘ Little Child ‘  with Paul on piano and Lennon with a great vocal performance. Paul takes the lead on the sweet  ballad ‘ Till There Was You ‘ . ‘Please Mr Postman ‘ ends the side with John delivering again a great vocal performance on this Motown classic by the Marvelettes.

George takes the mike on Side Two with a steamrolling version of  Chuck Berry’s ‘ Roll Over Beethoven ‘ and ‘ Hold Me Tight ‘ rocks along with Paul’s vocal and the boys full of energy. Smokey Robinson’s ‘ You Really Got A Hold On Me ‘ is my personal fave and features George Martin on piano. Next along is ‘ I Wanna Be Your Man ‘ with Ringo taking vocals and this song would give the Rolling Stones their first big hit in the UK! Next is a great song  ‘ Devil In Her Heart ‘ which is a Beatle cover of a group called The Donays which would have probably been forgotten if not recorded by the Beatles. the last Lennon and McCartney song on the album is ‘ Not A Second Time’ with John on vocal and to finish the album another Motown hit ‘ Money ‘ which gave John a chance to show us his raw vocal power one more time.                                    

The world would soon change as the Beatles went on to conquer the globe and like the two world wars the Yanks were late to the party!  Will we ever see the likes again!


This Was ~ Jethro Tull

June 2, 2011

The name Jethro Tull  comes from an 18th century gardener/inventor and this new group that adopted his name had their roots in the progressive British Folk /Jazz /Blues boom of the late 60’s and the two main members who really spilt this band in two at this point were Scottish flutist and vocalist Ian Anderson and guitarist and singer Mick Abrahams who were joined on bass by the very capable Glenn Cornick and the very very capable Clive Bunker on drums to form the band in 1967.                                                                                                                                                                                                   

With both Anderson and Abrahams having strong ideas on the right direction for the group to go, by the time the groups first album release  ‘This Was’ appeared, Abrahams had departed their ranks to follow in a more blues direction with his new group Blodwyn Pig who released two great albums called ‘Ahead Ring Out ‘ and ‘ Getting To This  with Abrahams playing his cherry red Gibson SG and singing to great effect. I was lucky to see Blodwyn Pig at the Marquee Club in London and they played a great show with Andy Pyle’s bass going right through your chest if you were standing in the first ten rows which I was.

While Ian Anderson won the battle to move the band in a more folk rock direction with his on stage performance in a ragged beggar’s overcoat and ballet tights playing the flute on one leg while looking like he had just escaped from a local mental institution this image would propel Jethro Tull to being one of the biggest outfits in the 70’s rock world. New guitarist Martin Barre joined the ranks playing a Les Paul and this settled line~up never looked back making albums like ‘Aqualung ‘ and ‘ Thick As A Brick ‘               

 But for the moment let’s concentrate on this overlooked gem of an album ‘ This Was ” from 1968.

 Side One kicks off with the jazzy My Sunday Feeling written by Ian Anderson with him on lead vocals and flute and features a great solo from Mick Abrahams with the rest of the band right on the money! 2) Some Day the The Sun Won’t Shine a slow twelve bar blues with vocals by Abrahams and Anderson who also plays mouth organ. 3) Beggar’s Farm ~ like the Jethro Tull we all got to know with the jazzy flute to the fore and another great solo from Abrahams. 4) Move on Alone ~ a Mick Abrahams song with him on vocals and a brass section featured on this track. 5) Serenade for a Cuckoo ~ Instrumental ~ a Roland Kirk song which shows where Ian Anderson got his jazz influences on flute from. Nice playing all round.

Side Two starts off with Dharma For One another instrumental with a Clive Bunker drum solo. 2) It’s Breaking Me Up ~  another great twelve bar blues with great playing for Abrahams ~ very bluesy. 3) Cat Squirrel ~ This is the track that I think spilt the band in two. An instrument with features all the best points of Mick Abrahams playing. 4) A Song for Jeffrey ~ This was the single from the album and the start of the direction Anderson would lead the band in and a precursor to Living In The Past . 5) Round ~ A short jazz Brubeck idea.

 

On the Deluxe 2 CD Collector’s Edition  reissue of  ‘ This Was ‘ you will find excellent BBC sessions from Top Gear, John Peel Show plus Stereo and Mono mixes of the album with extra tracks like ‘ Love Story ‘ which  was the last song recorded by Mick Abrahams with the band and it’s my favourite, released as a 45 it featured Christmas Song on the B side which are both worth hearing for the mandolin playing alone as is ‘ Sunshine Day which was their first single released on MGM and credited to Jethro Toe, also ‘ One For John Gee’ who was the manager of the Marquee Club and was responsible for getting the band a residency at the club early on in their career.

Look out for Jethro Tull on the 40th Anniversary 2011 tour playing ‘ Aqualung ‘ in it’s entirety


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