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

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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.

 

Flip the Script ~ A Photographer’s Musical Diary

September 29, 2012

Flip the Script ~ A Photographers Musical Diary by Kingsley Davis, London, UK.

Kingley Davis is from North London, England and is an Arsenal supporter but I didn’t hold that against him when he walked into my shop to give me some copies of his book before flying back to the UK.

‘Flip the Script Book provides a unique insight into how the music scene is changing, driven by technological innovations but also by the creativity, individuality and experimentation of the artists themselves. This special collection of portraits by Kingsley Davis was produced in ‘diary’ form and is an intimate documentation of many music genres.    

With a special preface by Norman Jay MBE, the title of the book reflects this change, as the artists featured have achieved success on their own terms, with or without stylists, A&R reps or publicists.  A common feature among the artists is having access to digital media giving them the opportunity to be heard and recognized overnight.                                            

Many of the artists featured in “Flip the Script” have come through underground cultures or sub-cultures and have emerged without comprising their authentic credentials.               

This adds to their appeal among discerning audiences, and so the book is finding a market among music buyers, youth and urban culture enthusiasts as well as those with a professional interest in music, lifestyle and fashion. The book is now stocked in 5 unique stores across London and most recently in the famous Photographers Gallery, the UK’s only gallery dedicated to photography.’

Available from Kingsley Davis at www.flipthescriptbook.com or email : info@flipthescriptbook.com

Also available from the Beatmerchant Record Store, Steveston Village, Richmond, BC, Canada.


Jet Harris ~ Me and my Shadows

February 7, 2012

In 1958  two Geordie boys came down to London not to visit the queen but to appear in a talent contest their names were Hank Marvin and Bruce Welch and the name of their skiffle band was The Railroaders, sadly they didn’t win the talent contest and as the rest of the band unhappily returned north Hank & Bruce decided to stick it out and with guitars in hand went for coffee in the 2 i’s coffee bar in London’s Soho district. Later the Geordie boys then met Cliff Richard’s manager John Foster who was putting together a backing band called the Drifters to back Cliff on a UK tour, so in early 1959 with Hank on lead guitar and Bruce on rhythm guitar along with blonde and moody and magnificent Jet Harris on bass and the very young Tony Meehan on drums they set off on the road. The classic Shads line up was born!

This line up had all the girls screaming for the good looking  blonde haired Jet Harris and the boyish smile ofTony Meehan.

EMI records producer Norrie Paramor who also produced Cliff Richard on seeing the boys on tour signed them to their own recording contract. They released two singles as the Drifters both with vocals before changing their name to the Shadows because of the American soul band also called the Drifters.

Their second release as the Shadows was an instrumental song called  ‘Apache’ written by Jerry Lordan and it made it all the way to No. 1 on the charts replacing Cliff ‘s ‘Please Don’t Tease’ at the top. An instrumental classic then and now! more hits were to follow with ‘Man of Mystery’ and  ‘FBI’. 1961 saw the release of their first album which stayed on the charts for a year! 1962 saw the Shadows  appear in the Cliff film ‘The Young Ones’ in which they looked brilliant and they hit the top of the charts again with another brilliant Jerry Lordan composition ‘Wonderful Land’.

Who remembers the Shadows dance steps!.

Music shops at this point saw an upswing in the sale of guitars as everyone wanted to play like Hank Marvin from the Shadows.    

The Shadows personnel was to change during this period with Tony Meehan being replaced on drums because of his constant lateness on by the great Brian Bennett and the blonde Jet Harris being replaced by Brian ‘Licorice’ Locking on bass. Jet Harris has said that he left the band because Cliff was having an affair with his wife and unfortunately Jet has hit the bottle for the rest of his life but Jet & Tony both had great success in the UK charts with ‘Scarlett O’Hara’ and ‘Diamonds’ which are great 45s in their own right and just as good as the Shadows. Sad that both players have now passed away. Brian ‘ Licorice’ Locking would later  be replaced on bass by John Rostill and it is was said that Locking was getting a religious hold over Cliff and the band as Cliff found religion and Hank became a Jehovah’s Witness as Locking was himself. The Shads was to lose their permanent bass player and a good songwriter in 1973 when John Rostill  died  from electrocution in his home recording studio. Very sad. All the way through the Shadows long career Bruce Welch and Hank ruled the band with an iron fist making all the decisions and the direction the band would go in.

The Beatles changed everything in the world in 1963 with the beat boom from Merseyside but the Shadows held on with my Shads favourite song ‘Foot Tapper’ and also ‘Shindig’  topping the charts and once again they appeared in the blockbuster Cliff film ‘Summer Holiday’ which is still a great film today.

This was a great period for the much~loved  British instrumental group of all time and all the great British guitar players as youngsters all took their cue from Hank Marvin and to see Cliff and the Shads on the final reunion tour was a fitting reminder of how great these lads are!

Plenty of Twang!


Unplug those iPods and Plug in your Record Players

December 28, 2011

Vinyl Experience ~ What a difference!

The long-playing record or LP as we know it began its life in the late 40’s as a replacement for the more brittle 78 rpm shellac discs and it clearly worked as the LP is still alive and well today!

The main benefit to the introduction of the vinyl LP was it helped improve durability and the capacity to play up to thirty minutes on each side of the record. However it wasn’t until the birth of Rock n Roll and Elvis that the sales of LPs started to escalate and the first stereo LPs started to appear.

Many albums from the 60’s were issued  in both Mono and Stereo versions, opinions are divided about which versions is the best, with both recordings offering a different listening experience. Early Mono versions do demand a higher price on the collector’s market and UK pressings from this period are highly prized.

With the release of the Beatles ‘Sgt. Peppers’ LP the sales of vinyl exploded in the world-wide market place with huge amounts of vinyl being sold right though  the mid 70’s and early 80’s, with acts like the Eagles, Fleetwood Mac, Peter Frampton and Michael Jackson selling big amounts, but in the 60’s we also began to see the LP artwork developed into its own art form. The album covers became  as important as the music itself taking on it’s own life  as the artists gained more artist control from the major record labels.

LPs became big business and the packaging became more elaborate often including printed inner sleeves with lyric inserts, posters and the beautiful gate~fold  sleeve design becoming great works of art and with the superior vinyl sound that is something the Compact Disc and the iPod with its more transistor-radio like sound has yet to match!

If you came through your teenage years listening to vinyl , then it is a hard act to follow, but the CD and iPod do have storage and mobility on their side.

During the 80’s the record companies kept finding new ways and gimmicks to help sell their latest releases and the collectable picture disc and the coloured vinyl became very popular also picture sleeves on the 45 rpm records and the great sounding 12″ records and remixes which had its big time in the new wave and disco era.

By the mid 80’s the record companies were ready to introduce the compact disc and push the new format into the market and almost overnight vinyl disappeared from the record shops as the record companies started not to release any big artist on vinyl let alone the smaller ones forcing CDs on the general public!

But the vinyl market would not go away and the record fairs became the place to buy and exchange vinyl during this period.   

Happily the classic albums from the 50’s and 60’s onwards are once again available today on vinyl along with the new releases.                                                                                                                                                           

Let’s see if the iPod is around in five years let alone fifty like vinyl.                                      

The great thing about the newer acts releasing vinyl is that some of them are including free downloads of the album as well so you can have the best of both worlds.

Many people come into my shop and tell me they still have their records and turntables and I urge you all to make room on your stereo units and plug-in your record players and enjoy again the unique experience of listening to vinyl through your hi~fi or headphones.

We will see what the future brings.

 

 

 


The One and Only Billy Fury

November 4, 2011

In the 50’s the arrival of American Rock n Roll had a huge impact on the youth of Britain.

Ronald Wycherley was born in Liverpool on April 17th 1941 and he was one of those teenagers that loved the American rock n rollers! Records by Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly, Eddie Cochran and Gene Vincent stirred the blood of the young teenage Wycherley as their records raced up the British charts week after week! When it came to British rock n roll there wasn’t much out there and the British imitators were sometimes on the feeble side, but Marty Wilde, Cliff Richard and Johnny Kidd & the Pirates did try and give it a good go!                                                                                              

A lot has been written about how Billy Fury was discovered which was a good bit of PR orchestrated by his manager Larry Parnes, the Brian Epstein of the 1950’s who had an eye for quasi ~ talented, good~looking boys and Billy Fury became the jewel in his pop crown. Billy was the boy pop star with the smoldering good looks and little boy lost look, slicked back hair cut, a cross between Elvis and Eddie Cochran. What teenage girl could resist him with his heavy~lidded vaseline eyes, singing the atmospheric ‘ Wondrous Place ‘. The girls went mad!

Billy’s first three top twenty hits were all written by him which is a remarkable achievement at a time when every singer did cover versions of the big USA hits,long before Lennon & McCartney era came along and made it commonplace for artists to record their own songs!

Billy Fury released the wonderfully authentic sounding 10″ album ” The Sound of Fury. ” A true British rock n roll statement, featuring tracks like ‘ That’s Love ‘ and ‘ Turn My Back On You ‘ which features the storming rockabilly twanulations of that cheeky cockney chappie Joe Brown on guitar.                               

What might have been if Billy Fury had stuck to his rock n roll path.

By the early 60’s in a Presley attempt to make him appeal to a wider audience, his management and Decca record company transformed him with huge success into a clean~cut ballad singer. Billy is best remembered for the song ‘ Halfway To Paradise ‘ with reached No. 4 in the UK chart and was quickly followed by the big melodramatic ‘ Jealousy ‘ and ‘ I’d Never Find Another You ‘. Whatever chance of continuing to write his own rock n roll songs has disappeared and fans of Billy’s brand of rock n roll were left to wonder ~ What if ~ as he was now on the conveyor belt of producing hit records ending up with 26 Top 50 hit singles in the 60’s which is pretty impressive.

At the peak of his career whirlwind tours, radio and TV appearances and his films like ‘ Play It Cool ‘ and  ‘ I’ve Gotta Horse ‘ kept him busy and a couple of his many backing bands were the Beatles who Billy thought would be trouble and the Tornadoes who went on to have an enormous worldwide hit with ‘ Telstar ‘ which was produced by the legendary British producer Joe Meek.

By 1964 with the onslaught of Beatlemania and the Merseybeat, solo singers were all struggling but Billy managed to keep the hits coming and by the end of the 60’s only Elvis, The Beatles and Cliff Richard could claim more UK hits than Billy Fury, but the time they were a changing and the hits started to dry up as Fury was starting to sound as old as his records.                                                                                                           

Lots of personal problems existed at this point but in 1973 Billy was offered a cameo role in the classic British rock n roll film ‘ That’ll Be The Day ‘ starring David Essex and Ringo Starr. Fury played Stormy Tempest a rock singer leading the Butlin’s style holiday camp band in the late 50’s which included Keith Moon and Dave Edmunds. Well worth seeing if you haven’t. With his voice and good looks still intact, Billy steals one particular scene by cradling the microphone in one hand close to his mouth while the other hand steadies the mike stand across his thigh all the time looking and performing to the pretty girls in the audience one by one.

Ronco released an LP for the soundtrack and also a 5 track EP of the songs Billy performs in the film and this EP has become very collectable. Rumour has it that during the filming the entire film crew was banned from every hotel on the Isle of Wight because of Ringo’s and Keith Moon’s high booze intake and the resulting mayhem that followed with everyone involved after the days hard shoot.

In 1981 while I was working for Polydor Records in London I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to sign Billy Fury to a new recording contract and reach the lower reaches of the UK chart with the 45’s ‘Devil or Angel ‘ and ‘ Love or Money ‘ and we was recording an album with producer Stuart Coleman ( Shakin’ Stevens) and a great studio band which featured  Terry Williams (Rockpile and Dire Straits) on drums, Pete Wingfield on keyboards, Billy Bremner (Rockpile) on guitar, and Mick Green (Johnny Kidd & The Pirates) on guitar. The album was only released after Billy’s untimely death at the age of 42 in 1983.                                                                             

Two things I personally remember about Billy is one time being in the studio with him to record a vocal track and we had to turn down the lights in the studio very low because of his shyness but when he started singing out came this perfect voice which even after twenty years he had not lost! and also a Buddy Holly night at the Lyceum Ballroom in London which was put on by Paul McCartney which I attended with Billy’s manager Tony Read. When Billy Fury was introduced to the crowd he nearly brought the house down with his many fans that were there that evening. Fury also showed great respect to his excited  fans by taking the time to talk to them and to sign every last autograph for then. A true star!

I got really close to Billy Fury in his last years of his life and we became good friends. I remember him as a shy guy almost unsure of himself and his talent. A singer who had been totally ripped off and mismanaged in his career, but his time spent on his farm in Wales in his later years was where he was most contented, there he bred horses and spent a great deal of time bird watching of the feathered kind ~ two of the great loves of his life, far removed from the Fury and bright lights of the music business.                          

I still miss him ~ like many others.

If you visit Liverpool then don’t forget to see the beautiful bronze statue of Billy in the city.


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