10 March 2013
I’ll Keep Running – The Mad Hatters (Fontana, USA, 1966)
From Annapolis Maryland, close to Washington, DC, the Mad Hatters formed in 1964, and played local clubs for about a year, before being spotted by producer/manager Barry Seidel. He whisked them into the studio for their first single “I Need Love” c/w “Blowin’ in the Wind” which came out in the autumn of ’65 on the Ascot label (and is also worth getting hold of). It sold well locally but failed to take off nationally, despite being a pretty good record. A follow up was recorded, but Ascot (a subsidiary of United Artists) only pressed promotional copies before scrapping the release. Fortunately a deal was made with Fontana for their third single. But, despite having everything going for it, “I’ll Come Running” also failed to sell. The band then tried doing some folky material under the name of the Loved Ones but that didn’t work either. Early in 1967 the singer quit and the band fell apart a few months later.
16 Feb 2013
Double Mirror Wrap Around Shades – Andy & the Manhattens (Cardon, USA, 1964)
Born Robert Anderson in Omaha, Nebraska, he recorded for some reason under the name of Andy. I have an earlier release of his as Andy & the Livewires, “You’ve Done It Again”, a rockabilly type number from around 1959/60. And one earlier release, which I’ve had since I was a teenager, the frantic rockabilly “You Shake Me Up”, as Andy Anderson. This 1964 record is a cool, laid back rhythm’n’blues influenced garage rocker. He had a few more singles after this one, which I don’t know – including The Buggs (a Beatles rip-off outfit) on the Soma label. Then he retired from music and became a doctor. In a sad and tragic end to his story, in 2009 he killed his wife and then himself…
19 Jan 2013
Just in Case You Wonder – The Ugly Ducklings (York Town, Canada, 1966)
This is my first entry here that comes from Canada, but not my last, that’s for sure. From Toronto, this group’s half a dozen or so singles on the Yorkville and York Town label are all worth getting hold of. My least favourite of them all, “Gaslight”, went top 40 in Canada but is still a great single. Like many bands of the time they were influenced by The Who, The Rolling Stones, The Yardbirds and The Kinks, and they put their own solid rocking garage punk stamp on it.
13 Jan 2013
Satan’s Theme – The Rondels (Amy, USA, 1961)
From Boston, MA, this quartet formed in 1959 and had a couple of singles on the tiny NOTA label before being signed to Amy in 1961. their first release on Amy, “Back Beat No.1″, got to the number 66 position in the USA (and, unlke “Satan’s Theme”, was issued in the UK on London American). However, out of all their five singles, to my mind, this is the best one. And not just because of the title – it’s a tough, fast-paced guitar instro with some wailing sax. If anyone was going to do “Satan’s Theme” I reckon Link Wray would have been better suited. But he didn’t do it. These guys did.
3 Jan 2013
Rockin’ Pneumonia (And the Boogaloo Flu) – Bobby Marcham (Cameo, USA, 1967)
Bobby Marcham started his professional life as part of a troupe of female impersonators in the nightclubs of New Orleans as a 22 year old but soon began peforming in straight r&b bands, releasing some singles under his own name before joining Huey Smith & the Clowns. That’s him singing on the classic “Don’t You Just Know It” (on Ace Records) as well as the earlier hit “Rockin’ Pneumonia and the Boogie Woogie Flu”. It wasn’t uncommon in the sixties for older songs to be resurrected and updated to match up with the changing times. And this is a prime example. I’m not sure which version I prefer overall, but I reckon this 1967 recording might just have the edge when it comes to getting some dance floor action.
29 Dec 2012
Voices Green and Purple – The Bees (UT Records, USA, 2012)
Originally released by the band themselves on their Liverpool Records label in October 1966, only a few hundred copies were pressed and the tune gained notoriety only after being re-issued on volume three of the Pebbles compilation albums and later on the Nuggets box set issued by Rhino Records. The band members were unaware of all this until fairly recently, which resulted in the story being told to Ugly Things magazine (no. 34). This Ugly Things 45 is the first legal re-issue and the first re-issue on seven inch vinyl. Go to the Ugly Things website to buy it – and get the full story in the magazine too while you’re at it.
26 Dec 2012
My First Band – Ben Vaughn Combo (53rd & 3rd, UK, 1987)
This was a UK release organised by The Next Big Thing (which started as a printed ‘zine in 1977 by one Lindsay Hutton – who we still see every now and then at our Dirty Water gigs when it’s something that’ll tempt him to make the journey down from Scotland) and licensed from Telstar Records out of New Jersey, USA (who originally released this 45 in January 1985). As Telstar’s website says, “The Ben Vaughn Combo…embrace the element of garage, r’n’b, soul, surf, punk and more that once made music so enjoyable, and put their own unique individual stamp on it to come up with something new and exciting.” Can’t say fairer than that!
As well as recording under his own name after the Combo came to an end in 1988, Vaughn has worked as a producer for numerous bands, including Los Straitjackets as well as Ween. He’s now living in California and is responsible for music that you may have heard on film and television, including Third Rock From The Sun and That ’70s Show.
25 Dec 2012
Message To Santa – The Cheetahs (Chunk, USA, 1992)
My favourite thing about Christmas is that it gives me an excuse, as if one’s needed, to play this great record. I mentioned this here a few week back and within days someone uploaded it to YouTube. A happy coincidence, I guess.
Recorded over 20 years ago at Slaughterhouse Studios in Amhurst, Massachusets, with Mal Thursday on vocals, only 300 copies were pressed, in festive red or green vinyl. It’s therefore not easy to get hold of these days. Anyone think we ought to re-issue it?
18 Dec 2012
Spoonful – The West Coast Branch (Valiant, USA, 1966)
Another example of the b-side being preferable… And what a b-side it is! There’s been a fair few versions of this Willie Dixon song but this lesser known remake is one of the best, in my opinion. And one that very often results in someone coming over to ask me about it when I play it out at a club or bar. Don’t know much about them but it appears that they were the house band at a place called The Flying Jib, near Redondo Beach, Los Angeles, California, a venue whose customers are described as “shit kickers and bikers”. A guy that was a regular at the Flying Jib remembers then doing an amazing version of “Smokestack Lightning” that “should’ve been a hit” but I reckon his memory’s confused and it’s this one he’s thinking of. They had a second single, a year later, in September ’67 on A&M, “Where Is The Door?” c/w “Colors Of My Life”, which I’ve not heard
09 Dec 2012
Va Va Voom – Chris Towns (Cee Tee, USA, 196?)
If anyone’s actually reading this blog, yeah, I’ve been so busy over the last ten days that I’ve had no time to update this with new records. So why not start off with a new record I’ve bought about which I know absolutely nothing. Digging around for info on this guy, it seems that he likely started off in doo-wop vocal groups, he later wrote songs which were recorded by the likes of Doris Troy and Brenda Lee, and his 1966 single “Turn To Me” on Port Records was popular on the “northern” soul scene. (He also had a single on the Cotillion label, which I’ve not heard but which also seems to fall into the “northern soul” genre.) On an Ohio label, this one has more of a latin flavour.
28 Nov 2012
Get Off My Roof – Jerry & the Landsliders (Holiday, USA, 1965 recording)
It’s not yet December but already the Christmas lights are up on the High Street (as per usual), the shops have had their Christmas displays up for a month already (what’s new?). And hearing Christmas tunes is really starting to get annoying. There are very few Christmas records I enjoy… Being a grumpy old bah humbug type, my favourite is “A Message to Santa” by The Cheetahs (Chunk Records, 1992) in which the protagonist tells Santa to “F*** off”. Only 300 copies were pressed and it’s not on Youtube. Maybe over the holiday period I’ll have time to record the vinyl to the computer and upload it. Maybe… Maybe I’ll play it at one of the three gigs coming up in December (or maybe all three of them). The only other Christmas themed record I have time for is this parody of the Rolling Stones hit. It’s sung by a Connecticut disc-jockey and TV weatherman named Jerry Worsham (who was born and grew up in Tusla, Oklahoma) and backed by a band he never met (who apparently hailed from Long Island, New York). I believe it was originally released on the P.P.X. label. My copy, like the original, is on festive red vinyl and is a later re-issue, probably from the early 1970s, I’d guess. But, hey, it plays and sounds good! And it’s one of only two Christmas records you’ll hear me play.
27 Nov 2012
Get on the Right Track – Joe Clay (Vik, USA, 1956)
In 1956 this 17-year-old Louisiana boy named Joe Cheramie got flown to New York by RCA to record for them. For a second session they sent him to Houston, Texas. Both of those sessions featured inter-racial backing bands, something quite rare at the time in the USA, I reckon. And those two sessions saw the re-christened Joe Clay performing alongside the cream of the crop. The guitarist on that first session was the fantastic Hal Harris. But here on this recording, from the second recording session, is Mickey Baker.
Mickey Baker, who died today aged 88, is best known for “Love Is Strange”, which was a huge hit record, released under the name of Mickey & Sylvia. But he played on SO many great records, he should be a household name.
That said, Joe Clay ought to be world famous too, don’t you think? Clay’s too few recordings from the mid-1950s are all absolutely amazing examples of full-on manic rockabilly. Management problems caused his career to stall. And he ended up being a bus driver in New Orleans until he was found by a British rockabilly fan in the 1980s and brought over to play to his new European fans (after the Bear Family label re-issued all his then recordings on one LP).
This, and all of Clay’s recordings, are near perfect in every way. And Mickey Baker’s, and Hal Harris’s, guitar playing on them are a very big part of that.
26 Nov 2012
I Told You So – The Badd Boys (Epic, USA, 1967)
Despite being on a major label these boys are a bit of a mystery to me…
The label says it’s produced by Stu Phillips and Dick Monda. Monda was also known as Daddy Dewdrop and came originally from Cleveland, Ohio, but was based in Los Angeles, and wrote hit songs in the 1970s for the likes of Ringo Starr, Kenny Rogers, Tom Jones, Engelbert Humperdinck, Sammy Davis Jr. Stu Phillips wrote music for film and television, including “Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls” and “The Monkees”.
So I’m wondering if this was a studio band put together, which wasn’t uncommon at the time (as it still is now), to try to come up with a hit record. The quality of the performances is good enough, perhaps, for this to be the case. And, it does often seem that when information on a band is hard to come by it’s because they weren’t a “real” band at all.
Still, this is a pretty cool record all the same. And, it’s one that can be yours for a nice cheap price. I got mine yesterday from a dealer in the USA for a measly ten dollars. And that’s gotta be a bargain by anyone’s standards!
25 Nov 2012
Her Loving Way – Gaylan Ladd (MGM, USA, 1965)
Sticking with MGM for this entry, it’s Ladd’s first solo release and what a corker it is. From Waco, Texas, Ladd (his real surname was Latimer) was previously in The Dawgs and also had releases as Bob & Gaylan (Bob being Bobby Sharp who was also in The Dawgs).
The Dawgs had been signed by Huey Meaux and Ladd continued working with him for his solo releases. Others by Gaylan Ladd were on the little known Texas label Ventura – “I Better Go Now” – and also another Texan label Pacemaker Records – “Repulsive Situation” (!). (Pacemaker was home to some great releases, including Johnny Winter’s “Birds Can’t Row Boats”, the Triumphs “Better Come Get Her” and Yesterday’s Obsession “The Phycle” c/w “Complicated Mind”.)
Ladd also played and recorded with The Silvertones and in the late sixties and early seventies in his band Heather Black, with whom he continued his relationship with Meaux.
17 Nov 2012
Did He Die – The Seeds (MGM, USA, 1970)
Released in December 1970, it seems that Ohio-born Seeds singer Sky Saxon never wanted to leave the garage, as this 45 has a sound that could have come from three years earlier.
He first recorded in the early sixties under the name of Richie Marsh but his most enduring legacy is The Seeds, who started in 1965 in Los Angeles and released their first single, “Can’t Seem To Make You Mine”, in August of that same year, which was followed up by the classic “Pushin’ Too Hard” just three months later.
I first met the man himself at a barbecue in Muswell Hill, north London, around ten years or so ago. He was an unusual character, to say the least. But even at 65 years old he had no trouble in chatting up young ladies! He still had charm and charisma by the bucketload. The last time I saw him was probably a year or so before he died, in the summer of 2009. He brought me a copy of the live DVD that had been filmed at the Dirty Water Club. “Here you go, man,” he said. “We’re gonna make your place famous!”
12 Nov 2012
Love is a Beautiful Thing c/w Bert’s Apple Crumble – The Quik (Deram, UK, 1967)
This is one great record – both tracks deserving of a-side status. Though it’s the b-side that’s most often heard out there in mod clubland. It is pretty much THE classic mod hammond instrumental groover, without equal. And by one of THE quintessential mod bands, who dressed sharp and didn’t stray too far from their original r&b roots whilst not losing sight of the aim of being a pop band too. This was the first of three singles on the Decca subsidiary and, to be fair, the best thing they did. If you’ve got £150 to spare (according to Record Collector magazine’s reckoning) you might find one in a record shop somewhere. Or you could be lucky like me and find one for 29 pence in a charity shop. Although it wouldn’t surprise me if this was bootlegged on a repro 45 any day now…
11 Nov 2012
Shaka Shaka Na Na – The Countdown Five (Hansa, German pressing, 1969)
Originally issued in the US on the Cobblestone label, a subsidiary of Buddah, it’s way easier to find a European copy. Yes, it’s from 1969 and you so you shouldn’t be surprised to find it’s in the genre that’s referred to as “Bubblegum”, but it has much welcome extra fuzz, an organ sound that keeps one foot definitely in the garage, and a raucous party atmosphere (complete with party sounds in the background). From Galveston, Texas, the Countdown Five will keep the dance floor moving and if you’re taking it out for a DJ session you’ll find it works great when played straight before (or after) “Shake” by fellow Texans, the Shadows of Knight.
10 nov 2012
Monkey One More Time – the King Pins (Federal, USA, 1963)
The Federal label was chock full of great acts – Willie Mabon, Ike Turner, The Midnighters, James Brown, The Platters, The Dominoes, Big Jay McNeely, Freddie King, Champion Jack Dupree, Muddy Waters, Jimmy Witherspoon… I’d be pretty confident of buying anything on Federal and it being a great record. I found this one in a second hand shop here in London today for no more than it’d cost to buy a brand new release. And, for me, it was worth every penny and more.
09 Nov 2012
Thirteen Women – The Renegades (President, UK, 1966)
I count myself as extremely lucky to have found a copy of this at an affordable price. In fact, I’ve never even seen a UK pressing before (or since). European copies are easier to come by but still aren’t generally seen for less than £50. A re-issue is now available, though, so check online or, if you’re in London visit Sounds That Swing in Camden Town or Intoxica on Portobello Road.
Birmingham boys The Renegades, like quite a few British groups, found that outside the UK they could be big fish in a small pond. In their particular case, they ended up being famous in Finland.
Originally by rhythm’n’blues singer Dickie Thompson, on the Herald label, the Renegades most likely came across the song as the flipside to Bill Haley’s “Rock Around The Clock”.
07 Nov 2012
Whatcha Gonna Do About It c/w Always Running Around – The Evil (Capitol, German pressing, 1967)
The original release of this Miami, Florida band was on the Living Legends label in 1966, which apparently has more feedback and distortion than the re-mixed version that came out when Capitol licensed it a few months later, expecting it to be a big hit. I have a German pressing with what is possibly the most boring picture sleeve in the world (a photo of the Capitol Records building in Los Angeles) – it wasn’t issued in the UK. I used to think that the Evil was the same group under a different name that was earlier called the Montells, because an album on the Australian Corduroy Records put both bands on the same reissue LP (in the mid-1990s). They have their similarities, including having the same bass player. But they were separate entitites. And the Evil is the better band by some way (though don’t let that stop you buying anything by the Montells should you be lucky enough to chance upon anything by them). If you want to know more about The Evil and sixties Florida bands in general see if you can track down a copy of Jeff Lemlich’s fabulous book “Savage Lost (Florida Garage Bands – The ’60s And Beyond)”.
05 Nov 2012
Demolición – Los Saicos (DisPerú, Lima, Peru, 1964)
I’m sure these guys back in ’64 never imagined that they’d become known across the entire world. Or that someone would make a documentary about them. But their current notoriety is well deserved. This is one of six singles they released in the mid-1960s, all of which comprised wholly original songs written by band members Erwin Flores and Rolando Carpio. There’s not much I can say about them that you can’t hear in the grooves of this record. Or read in this recent article in The Guardian.
04 Nov 2012
Never Knew I Had It So Bad – Thee Midniters (Whittier, USA, 1967)
Being mostly Mexican Americans the bands of East Los Angeles have a unique sound, neither white rock’n’roll nor black rhythm’n’blues/soul. They take a bit of everything and throw it in the pot, with great results. As well as writing their own songs, Thee Midniters (who may have been THE first band to use THEE as a prefix) covered other greats from the Rolling Stones to Wilson Pickett. The “northern soul” crowd claim this band as part of their genre. And so do the garage-rock crowd, obviously. And, yes, they do have a foot in both camps. But if you listen to the lyric, they’re more garage than soul: “My father was an alkie, and my momma was no good, I had a sister that walked the streets, my little brother was a hood.” Probably a true story….
03 Nov 2012
I Don’t Need You No More c/w Boss – The Rumblers (Downey, USA, 1962)
“Boss” was the a-side but I more usually play the flip, the excellent “I Don’t Need You No More”. I guess that “Boss” had the bigger impact at the time because they followed it up with “Boss Strikes Back” (on the nationally distributed Dot label, which re-issued “Boss”/”I Don’t Need You No More” six months after its original release). Their first album also featured the songs “Boss Drums”, “Boss Blues” and “Walking with the Boss”. And in ’64 they had a single called “Boss Soul”. Everything was “boss” for the Rumblers. (In the 1960s “boss” was American teen slang for “cool” or “awesome”. And maybe because of the transatlantic trade route it’s still used in Liverpool today.)
02 Nov 2012
Tomorrow night I am playing records at my mate’s pub, The Snooty Fox (75 Grosvenor Avenue, London N5 2NN – just across the street from Canonbury overground station). It’s a mixed crowd of local people mostly. But in all the times I’ve played records there I’ve never had someone come up and request something completely and utterly inappropriate, I have to say. Tomorrow one of the locals is celebrating a birthday and specifically requested that the guvnor has someone that plays 50s & 60s music. Fine, suits me. But, seeing as it is their birthday and they’re not afficionados like all of us lot, I will be playing more of the “hits” than I would do at the Dirty Water Club or similar place. And today for a couple of quid each (and in near mint condition) I got the following, most suitable, 45s.
Big Girls Don’t Cry – The Four Seasons (Stateside, 1963)
The book price for a mint, unplayed copy of this is a mere five quid. And, yeah, you’ve heard it a thousand times here and there. But, believe me, stick the needle on this little beauty and it sounds amazing. Great records don’t have to cost big money.
Keep A Knocking – Little Richard (London, 1957)
This one, by all accounts, ought to sell for nearer £30 a pop. But these sold in big numbers back in 1957 so if you keep your eyes open you can still pick ‘em up cheap. It’s a case of being lucky by making your own luck – which you do by keeping your peepers peeled.
The Sonics version is a fantastic try at doing what Little Richard does best. But you can’t beat the real thing.
Peter Gunn – Duane Eddy (London, 1959)
Another one that ought to be pretty cheap and easy to get your hands on. For less than a fiver you can have that twangy guitar on your turntable. Who can not like a record like that?!
01 Nov 2012
Another random record pulled off the shelf. Don’t be deceived by the slow, mournful Hammond organ start to the song – this one’s a real garage screamer but with a blue-eyed soul vibe that’ll drag you onto the dance floor. On the Nashville-based Dial label, known to many soul fans for numerous Joe Tex releases, for whom owner Buddy Killen set up the label (there’s no link with the jazz label of the same name out of Hollywood), there’s nothing more I can tell you about ‘em. They’re a mystery… There are other versions of this song, including one that seems to be a bit more well known, by a group called The Breakers. But, for what it’s worth, I prefer The What-Knots.
I Ain’t Dead Yet c/w Talkin’ ‘Bout Our Breakup – The What-Knots (Dial, USA, 1967)
31 Oct 2012
Sometimes I’ve had people ask if they could DJ at the Dirty Water Club. I knew them to have good taste in music, so I said yes. But that is sometimes a mistake, let me tell you. Good taste doesn’t make a good DJ. Some people who think they’re DJs just play records to show off what they’ve got. You’ve got to get people dancing. Play a mixture of records – from the very well known to the totally obscure (so long as it’s GOOD!). But don’t go up there with your ego as the main consideration. With that in mind, I often pick up records that I think I ought to own and which deserve to get played out every now and then, even if they are totally famous. Here’s one that I got today.
See You Later Alligator c/w The Paper Boy – Bill Haley & the Comets (Brunswick, 1956)
30 Oct 2012
Mac Curtis, born in Fort Worth, Texas, in 1939, began playing guitar at the age of 12. At the age of 15 a show at his high school was shut down due to “sexually suggestive movements” on stage. But he got signed up to King Records pretty soon afterwards, and maybe that helped! This is his third single. But any of those first six releases of his on the King label are worth grabbing when you see ‘em.
You Ain’t Treatin’ Me Right c/w The Long Road – Mac Curtis (King, USA, 1956)
29 Oct 2012
Here’s one I just bought from Robin Wills of the Barracudas:
Slow Death c/w Tallahasse Lassie – Flamin’ Groovies (UA, 1972, German pressing with picture sleeve)
Robin Wills says, ‘This is the single that started it all for me. It hit this 12 year old full face and the love story has never ended. I still play this single over and over and 40 years later it still sends shivers down the backbone. The overall attitude, the riff, the lyrics, those pounding drums, the amazing Dave Edmunds production (just check the best hand clap sound ever on the third verse), this single has and does it all…and for me is still the most perfect single I’ve ever heard or experienced.’
28 Oct 2012
In the Cover of Night – Don & Jerry (Fabor, USA, 1965)
No new records came into my life today so I’m just taking a random record off my shelf. And the first one that came to hand was this one.
Don Griffin and Jerry Strickland were primarily song writers, out of Louisiana, but they got together with California band The Fugitives and made a couple of 45s in 1965-66. This, the first of two singles, came out in the spring of ’65. (Ron Gray and the Countdowns recorded this song shortly afterwards for N-Joy label and is a pretty good version too.)
27 Oct 2012
Okay, I know most people would be expecting me to be starting off with some full-on garage punkers here but, hey, it’s all rock’n’roll to me. And I’m sure some garage 45s will be appearing here soon.
Here’s what’s newly arrived on my record shelves:
I’m Talking About You – Chuck Berry (Chess, USA, 1961)
Much covered by British beat groups, and others, this is one that anyone into 50s rock’n’roll or 60s garage and beat ought to have in their record collection.
Boom Boom – John Lee Hooker (Vee Jay, USA, 1962)
The second record to make a belated appearance in my life is one that I know very well already. Why didn’t I own it earlier? Well, I guess that the time just wasn’t right. Written in Detroit and recorded in Chicago, in 1961, there’s a great clip of him performing it on the BBC’s ‘Ready Steady Go’.
Do The Slauson Shuffle – The Olympics (Tri-Disc, USA, 1963)
The Olympics are best known for their big hit in 1958, “Western Movies”, but they carried on through the sixties recording soul and r&b and staying pretty much up to date in their sound. “Do the Slauson Shuffle” is from 1963 and ought to be enough to get anyone up on the floor and dancing.