The Small Faces ~ So I’ll Just Groove Along Quite Naturally

December 5, 2014

In Memory of Ian McLagen  – 1945 – 2014

Are you sitty comfy bold two square on your botty?

Then I’ll begin………

Long before Rod Stewart and Ronnie Wood got together to form the Faces in the early 70’s there was a pop group in England called The Small Faces who  formed in the early 60’s and had hits glore in the UK.

Original members included singer Stevie Marriott who had a spit~in~your~eye attitude leading on three other renegades ~ Ronnie “Plonk” Lane on bass, Kenney Jones on drums, and Ian McLagen on keyboards. The latter three were to join Rod the Mod and Ronnie Wood in the Faces after the Small Faces broke up and Stevie Marriott went on to form Humble Pie. The Faces first album First Step was released in the USA as the Small Faces.

They were called The Small Faces because they were all no taller than 5′ 6″ and they performed some of the most raucous R&B and soulful music this side of the Wapping Wharf with influences such as Booker T & the MGs, Sam Cooke and Solomon Burke. They also looked good with a great image, and were the Mod kings of swinging London,  the boys had clothing accounts at all the best shops in Carnaby Street while the rest of us Mods & Rockers fought it out in Brighton.   

The Small Faces early hits are classic slices of Mod Pop, ‘Whatcha Gonna Do About It’, ‘ Sha La La La Lee’, and ‘All or Nothing’ all released on Decca Records. By 1967 the groups songwriting had began to mature and a change of record label from Decca to ex Stones manager Andrew Loog Oldham’s new Immediate Records allowed them to not play live so much and have more studio time and artistic freedom just like the Beatles with Sgt. Pepper as the flower power era dawned.

Starting with ‘ Here Comes The Nice ‘ The Small Faces blazed a spectacular coloured soundscape across the sky. The truly remarkable Itcycoo Park (their only US hit) was followed next into the charts by Tin Soldier. This is my all time favourite song, full of passion it still today explodes out of the speakers with former Ikette  P.P Arnold on backing vocals spurring on Stevie Marriott to one of the greatest UK soul performances ~ ever!

Everyone nowadays talks about Pete Townsend and Ray Davies being the great spokespersons and class observers of the British 60’s generation  but I think we should take our hats off to Stevie and Ronnie as great songwriters as well!

I remember buying ‘Lazy Sunday’ with Stevie’s cockney voice and the great sound effects on the record while staying at my Aunt Alice’s in Bournemouth on the south coast of England and I must have driven her crazy playing that song and the B side ‘ Rollin’ Over ‘ maybe over a thousand times that Easter weekend.

Their last single to just make it into the Top 30 was ‘ The Universal ‘ and what a truly unique record it is! Partly recorded in Stevie’s back garden with dogs barking in time it features a crazy clarinet part and a Chet Atkins style guitar solo and it’s totally uncommercial but they still made it on to Top of the Pops for a memorable performance.

Like most of the British bands from the 60’s the Small Faces 45 rpm records have great B ~ sides like ‘ Talk to You’ with a powerful passionate Marriott vocal and ‘ I’m Only Dreaming ‘ a beautiful love song with a light arrangement and once again sang with great soul by Mr. Marriott.

B~side ‘ I Feel Much Better ‘ starts with Ronnie Lane’s bass ~ the baddest sound this side of the Watford Gap with P.P. Arnold once again supplying the backing vocals and a great fade at the end of the record. ‘ Rollin’ Over ‘ comes on like a steamroller coming at ya with a killer brass section and Kenney Jones really showing what a great drummer he is and Ian McLagen as melodically inventive on the keyboards as ever and on top of all that another epic vocal from Stevie Marriott.                                         

Donkey Rides A Penny A Glass ‘ always reminds me of my school holidays at my Dad’s caravan on the Essex coast on those hot summer days! grooving along quite naturally. Brilliant!

Then to top it all off and to light the candles on their cake the boys produced the classic  ‘Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake ‘ album released on May 31st 1968. I remember that day was full of sunshine as I travelled to Barking in Essex by bus to buy this extraordinary record with its round artwork sleeve ( a first ) and  the fairy~tale story of Happiness Stan on Side Two of the record narrated by Stanley Unwin in his own strange but unique Unwinese language taking us all off to another world!. This album sounds fantastic in mono.

A brilliant album full of great songs and east end music hall humour that was overlooked in North America but which is full of the a deep joy and thorkus, a great laugh ‘n’ tittery for the heart as Stanley would say.

God bless em all!       Long ago and worlds apart

Advertisements


Genuine CD sound quality drawing music lovers back

December 14, 2012

Genuine CD sound quality drawing music lovers back

to the Beatmerchant.

amywinehousesteveston.jpg

Frankie Neilson of The Beatmerchant Record Store in Steveston, which offers CDs and vinyls, such as this Amy Winehouse album.

Martin van den Hemel photos
By Martin van den Hemel – Richmond Review
Published: January 13, 2012 11:00 AM
Updated: January 13, 2012 11:47 AM
 
History has a way of repeating itself, and so it appears with the predicted demise of CDs since downloading music from the Internet became a multi-billion dollar industry.

 Big box music store HMV recently closed its store at Richmond Centre mall after gradually placing less and less emphasis on its music CD collection. And HMV tried to fill a void left by the closing of A&B Sound in Vancouver.

 But business has never been better for Frankie Neilson, owner of The Beatmerchant Record Store in Steveston, a specialty music store in the heart of the fishing village.

 “I think the big box stores…haven’t survived because they haven’t been giving people what they want. They stock all the same stuff,” said Neilson.

 Much like when CDs came on the scene in the 1980s, many pundits wondered how long it would take for vinyl albums to become extinct. And although vinyl albums aren’t being mass produced anymore, there’s no shortage of demand from audiophiles seeking the authentic sound quality they offer.

 Similarly, downloads from iTunes for play on iPods and other MP3 players doesn’t have the same quality and range of sound offered by music CDs or vinyl records.

 Neilson said one customer walked in after spending thousands of dollars on iTunes downloads, but had nothing to show for it and is now buying vinyl.

 Aside from better sound quality, having something you can hold, along with the signature artwork on CD jackets, along with additional content such as lyrics, that can’t be replicated by online downloads.

 Beyond that, people miss going to a store and chatting about music with people who are knowledgeable about it, he said.

 Over the past five years, Neilson said it’s a shame that the technology is becoming more important than the music itself.

 “The music is what’s important, not the technology,” he said.

 

Ralph Mace ~ How I Became A Spider From Mars

November 15, 2012

It has been over 40 years since the release of David Bowie’s SPACE ODDITY single in the UK, a record which was to launch the career of probably the most innovative, charismatic and talented English rock star.

At the time of its release, 1969, I had recently joined the staff of the pop music department at Philips Records in London where they were riding high in the charts with a string of number one hits with such artists as Scott Walker, Dusty Springfield and Manfred Mann. Philips were also ever alert for new talent to help compete against the other major UK companies, EMI, Decca, Polydor and Pye Records. One of Philips new signings was David Bowie, who had been previously signed to Decca Records without any outstanding success. 

At the beginning of the swinging sixties, London was exploding with live music, mini skirts, trendy fashions and young people making their mark everywhere, there was a confidence and vitality in the air which is hard to imagine today. All over the country there were music venues presenting, Pop, Folk, Jazz, R&B Soul  and  Blues and it seemed that every pub in most cities had some live act performing most nights.

Part of my job at Philips was to arrange promotion and concert appearances in Europe for their artists and this meant I needed to know and understand what all these new artists were about. David Bowie was, and still is for that matter, a sort of music chameleon. In 1969 his music and performances had mainly been folk orientated with various stabs at the pop market. He was writing a lot of songs and was trying to form a group and find a musical image and sound that would suit him best. An important part of David’s set up at this point was his American girlfriend Angie who was full of ideas as to what was needed for success and would all the time be hassling managers, promoters and record companies to do more to promote Bowie. They were not making much money then and in the midst of all this, David and Angie decided to get married having their wedding breakfast with cans of beer and coke in my office.                                                                                           

Fortunes were to change  with the record SPACE ODDITY which, like all new releases at Philips was put on the plug list for radio plays and to gauge its success ~ in air play and record sales ~ and was reviewed at our weekly marketing meeting. The only effective way of promoting any new record in those days was for it to be heard on the radio and that was mainly the old stuffy BBC which had woken up a bit after the pirate radio stations ruled the waves for a couple of years, but now airplay was even more difficult to get in a country now exploding with pop music and scores of new releases and artists every week. Unlike today, there was no iTunes or YouTube to help promote, no computers and music was enjoyed either on a 45 rpm vinyl record or 33 rpm vinyl record or at a live concert.

After several weeks SPACE ODDITY had received no airplay and had virtually no sales and there was calls to stop promoting it to the radio stations at our weekly marketing meetings, but for one promotion man Dick Leahy a young man who would later run his own company GTO Records and be the mentor for the up and coming George Michael. Dick refused to drop the Bowie single saying that it was too good a record to drop. His persistence finally paid off with a few plays at  BBC Radio One which stated the bandwagon rolling and which became stratospheric when the BBC used SPACE ODDITY as the background music to the TV news reports of the first landing on the moon by Apollo 11 in July 1969 and the record took off like a rocket ~ sorry! I suppose the idea that an astronaut might just float away into space fired up the public’s imagination.                            

By 1971, David’s star was well set in the firmament and he began preparing tracks for a new album to be recorded at the now famous Trident Studios in St. Anne’s Court, just off Wardour Street in the heart of Soho’s Red Light District, just down the street from the Marquee Club. By then I had moved to my new job at Famous Music, which was part of Paramount Pictures across the road from Trident. David and his producer, Tony Visconti, regularly called in to see me and they invited me to attend any of the recording sessions if I wished. One evening, after work, I did just that. David and all the group were in the control room trying to overdub a new keyboard part which Visconti had written to be played on the moog synthesizer, a new revolutionary instrument at the time and one which had recently been made famous by the Moody Blues and Walter Carlos on his Switched On Bach album. The moog part for “Memory of a Free Festival” which appeared on the self ~ titled album David Bowie was a little tricky, it needed pianistic fingers and none of the group made a very good job of it. After several of them had tried their fingers at it, I suggested to David that if they wanted to get home before breakfast it might be a good idea for me to take a stab at it. David smiled and nodded and I sat down before the new moog keyboard for the first time. My fingers were in pretty good shape in those days and after a couple of trail runs we had the moog part in the can. Then the parts for several further songs appeared and I put these tracks down too.

When the album, The Man Who Sold The World, was released the credits on the back of the album cover listed : DAVID BOWIE: guitar, vocals; TONY VISCONTI: Electric bass, piano, guitar; MICK RONSON: guitar,; MICK WOODMANSEY: drums; and RALPH MACE: Moog Synthesizer.           

And that’s how I became a SPIDER FROM MARS

Ralph Mace ~ November 2012


Roger Hodgson ~ The Voice of Supertramp

August 6, 2012

Roger Hodgson ~ Friday 3rd August 2012 ~ River Rock Casino, Richmond, BC, Canada.

Roger Hodgson12-String Guitar, Grand Piano, Keyboards, Lead Vocals
Aaron Macdonald sax, keybords, harmonies
Kevin AdamsonKeyboards
Bryan HeadDrums
David J CarpenterBass

The River Rock is a really nice venue with not a bad seat in the house, seating about 980 people. The staff are very friendly and cheerfully show you to your seat. The only thing that I didn’t like was that the audience is allowed to bring their drinks into the show and while the show is on there is a constant stream of people leaving and returning to the auditorium with more drinks or after a washroom break, but I suppose that is one of the ways the casino makes their money.                                                            

This evening the voice of Supertramp ~ Roger Hodgson plays solo with his new band on the Breakfast In America tour and the band takes to the stage first followed by the man himself to great applause and  there is a lot of love inside this auditorium for Roger tonight!

Straight into “Take The Long Way Home” followed quickly by “Logical Song” and the audience are standing up on their feet already with sideman Aaron MacDonald a Canadian from Ontario impressing on both Harmonica and Saxaphone. As a couple arrive late and are taking their seats Roger chips in lightheartly with ‘Your late, you have missed the best songs”                                                                                                            

Every song is a classic tonight for the audience and I watch the girl in the pink dress at the side of the stage who danced the whole night away and knew all the words to such songs as “Hide In Your Shell”. Roger talks to the audience and tells them that ‘ Music holds memories like nothing else and you have to hang onto your love especially in this world today’ This man is loved and gives out a lot of love himself and comes across as a geniune person. By “Breakfast In America” the audience are back on their feet again.

One song which I had not heard before and which appeared on his 2000 solo album release “Open The Door” a song  called ” Death and the Zoo”. has great lyrics and was one of the highlights of the show for me as the song is not so well known.

The band are really cooking now and have a great groove almost slightly jazzy in places and the audience hits a high point as they delivers the classic “It’s Raining Again” & “Dreamer” and Roger and the boys leave the stage and come back for a roaring encore version of “Give A Little Bit”.

When you listen to the words of “Give A Little Bit” you see that Roger Hodgson is a man with a gentle soul and thinks about other people , the state of the planet and is a happy man within himself and everyone who was at the show went home happy too! Rock On Roger.

ROGER HODGSON – BREAKFAST IN AMERICA U.S. DATES: 
 
Some things you might not know about Roger Hodgson.

Website : www.rogerhodgson.com

Roger went to school with Richard Branson.

Supertramp was A&M Records biggest selling artists along with The Police.                   

Born in Portsmouth, England ~ Roger now lives in California.                                         

In 1987 Roger broke both of his wrists and was told he would not  play music again.

All time favourite band : Norwegian band Secret Garden

His first recording session featured Reg Dwight (Elton John) on piano.

Thing he misses the most about England ~  the humour.

Frankie Neilson.


A Taste for Rory Gallagher

May 10, 2012

Back in 1969 I was lucky to be working at the Marquee studio which was round the back of the Marquee club in Wardour Street, London. I would sneak in the back door of the club at the end of the work day after a drink at the Ship pub to sit and catch the best of the bands appearing at the club.                                              

In those days the club used to have about six to eight rows of chairs in front of the stage and one evening I got in real early and sat in front of a Vox AC 30 amp perched on top of a chair. Plugged into that amp was a Fender Stratocaster with most of the wood vanish rubbed off the body of the guitar with a treble booster with was used during the solos. By the end of the evening my ears didn’t stop ringing for a week, but what a special evening.

Rory Gallagher was appearing with his first  group from Ireland Taste a blues/rock  trio with John Wilson on Drums and Charlie McCracken on Bass. You have to go a long way to find a rhythm section as good as these two with Rory Gallagher on guitar and vocals and sometimes saxophone and harmonica this trio took some beating.

Like a lot of the European guitarists he was drawing heavily from the American  blues players of the 40’s and 50’s, but I must say the boy from Ballyshannon, County Donegal in Ireland could certainly play it well!                       

Their first release in 1969 was the self titled album Taste’  on the Polydor label. The album features tracks which would become live crowd pleasers like the blues classic ‘Sugar Mama’ a seven minute epic and ‘Catfish’ an eight minute epic along with originals ‘Blister on the Moon’ and ‘Same Old Story’. This album has a very raw sound with few overdubs. It is slightly jazzy in places but doesn’t stray to far from the  blues with Rory playing some great slide guitar and finishing off with a version of the Hank Snow country song I’m Moving On’.

After listening to the album you knew you had been listening to something special and live this was even more of a powerful experience seeing the band in action.

Night after night Rory and the boys would deliver on the live circuit with Gallagher acting very humble and thankful for the enthusiastic response from the audience. No superstar trip here this was a great live band delivering the goods. Rory would dress in his denim jeans and lumberjack shirt with his long hair hanging down in front of his face as he played and John & Charlie would not miss a beat whether they were appearing in a small club or at an open air festival across the countries of Europe.

In 1970 Taste released their second album on Polydor called ‘On The Boards’ which made the British charts. The album starts off where the previous one finishes off and the lead track What’s Going On’ shows a progressive maturity with all three players on top form.                                                          

The title track and ‘It’s Happened Before, It’ll Happen Again’ sees Rory playing a jazzy Alto Sax and the other two guys stretching out and showing their own capabilities on each track. Eat My Words ‘ allows Rory to attack his guitar with some vicious bottleneck playing then on other tracks you have the beauty of his acoustic guitar playing.

Both albums are worth seeking out.

I wonder what direction this band would have gone if they had stayed together….. maybe in a Van Morrison jazzier direction…. unfortunately Rory was to break up the band to head off into the world of  a solo performer while McCracken and Wilson were to form a new group called Stud with Jim Cregan (later guitarist of the Rod Stewart band). Rumour has it that dodgy management didn’t want Rory to spilt the earnings three ways with the other two and in future would keep his backing musicians on wages, anyway sad to say Rory Gallagher passed away in 1995 at the age of 47 but he did have a long and successful solo career.              

If you like your guitar players with a blues edge then add these albums to your collection and raise a pint of Guinness and remember Rory, John, Charlie and Taste the boys from Ireland.


Paul Kossoff ~ Well my maker must have been a heartbreaker

March 29, 2012

When Chris Blackwell signed Free to Island Records in 1968 he wanted to call them the Heavy Metal Kids but in stepped blueman Alexis Korner with the perfect name for the band FREE. This band had it all and delivered one of the best all time party records in ‘ All Right Now’ and left behind a fine body of musical work.                      

On Drums ~ Mr. Simon Kirke who could lay down a back beat like the Stax legend Al Jackson of Booker T & The MGs fame. Simon Kirke was rock steady, never too flash and never missed  a beat. On Bass ~ Mr. Andy Fraser who was playing with John Mayall at the age of 15 and is an astonishing bass player and co~writer of all the classic Free songs. On Guitar ~ Mr. Paul Kossoff, son of actor David Kossoff who was classically trained on guitar before plugging in his trusty Les Paul guitar and becoming one of England’s finest and also my favourite guitar player. On Vocals ~ The one and only Mr. Paul Rodgers, one of the greatest voices England has ever produced and also an excellent songwriter.

While I was working at the Marquee Club in London in 1969 the DJ used to play two 45s by Free, one wasBroad Daylight’ and the other was ‘I’ll Be Creepin’ which I loved. I had never seen this band play and one Friday night my mates and I made it out to Loughton in Essex to see Free play live. We got a beer and managed to get right down the front of the stage. Free strolled on and in the next hour proceeded to deliver one of the greatest soulful performances from a rock band I have ever seen! ~ very powerful. The band was on tour to support their first album ‘Tons of Sobs’ which has a real blues feel about it with songs like ‘Going Down Slow’ and the Albert King classic The Hunter’, but for me  it was the songwriting talent of Andy Fraser and Paul Rodgers which pointed the way forward for the band with songs like ‘Worry ~ ‘Walking My Shadow’ and the brilliant ‘I’m A Mover’ with a blistering solo from Paul Kossoff.             

Their self titled second album Free was the stepping stone to later success with outstanding songs and playing from the band. ‘I’ll Be Creepin’ ~ ‘Songs of Yesterday’ ~ ‘Lying in the Sunshine’ and Woman’ moulded the classic Free sound.

With this band what they didn’t play was as important as what they did play ~ Leave some space for the music to breathe!

Next up was their biggest selling album ‘ Fire and Water’  which featured the big hit single All Right Now’ which hit the top of the charts in that hot summer of 1970. This is a monster record even today receiving lots of radio play all over the world. ‘Fire and Water’ is an album where every track is a standout with Simon Kirke driving the band along from behind the Drum set and Andy Fraser delivering the Bass solo to end all Bass solos on ‘Mr. Big’ and gut wrenching guitar solos with understated control from Paul Kossoff and the great Paul Rodgers showing us that he is Britain’s answer to Otis Redding. A must have in any record collection.         

By this point Free mania had arrived and breaks and disagreements started to appear in the band who didn’t handle success too well due to their young years and the pressure was on to follow~up on the hit album and 45. The next album was not received well but I think that judgment was unfair then or even now, maybe it was the dull sleeve after great pieces of artwork on the three previous albums, but the album Highway’ has some high points and is still a gem in it’s own right.

The swaggering ‘The Highway Song’ kicks off the album and is followed by the song chosen as the next 45 follow~up to ‘All Right Now’The Stealer’ which couldn’t get arrested on the radio and did a belly flop on the singles chart as did the album, but with tracks like ‘Be My Friend’‘Ride on Pony’ and the rest of the album it shows all this band needed was more time for recording and probably a good holiday away from each other as they had been touring endlessly at the point.

The band spilt up for the first time and not the last with Kossoff saying that the songwriters Fraser & Rodgers were too restrictive in the studio almost telling Koss what to play note for note instead of the creative input coming from all the members of the band. Meanwhile Island Records released the album ‘Free Live’ which shows how good the band was at the time. The band did reform a couple of times and soldiered on releasing two fine albums ‘Free At Last’ and Heartbreaker’ both on Island with Kossoff playing some amazing guitar from deep within on ‘Free At Last’ and sadly only appearing a few tracks on ‘Heartbreaker’ because of drug problems but both albums spored hit 45’s in ‘Little Bit of Love’ and ‘Wishing Well’.Paul Rodgers and Simon Kirke must be thanked for keeping the band together with Fraser leaving and Kossoff going awol at this point .       

The real tragedy here was the rapid demise of guitarist Paul Kossoff  who never got over a serious drug problem when the band initially broke up in the early 70’s, passing away in March 1976 at the tender age of 25 while promoting his new band Back Street Crawler in the USA. A sad loss of a huge talent who is still much  loved today.

Andy Fraser formed the excellent band Sharks with Chris Spedding but that didn’t last to long, still he kept his hand in writing songs for Frankie Miller, Rod Stewart and Chaka Khan as well as releasing some good solo albums.

Paul Rodgers and Simon Kirke went on to form Bad Company and signed to the Led Zeppelin label Swansong and were to conquer America with their brand of stadium rock. However Paul Rodgers who has played with some of the best guitarist in the world has said that he never found a guitar player to replace Paul Kossoff, not even Jimmy Page or Brian May. Sail on My Brother Jake.                                                                                                                         

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     


%d bloggers like this: