Monday, March 19, 2018

More U.K. Obscurities On U.S. Labels: Brit's Via Italy: The Rokes

THE ROKES-The Works Of Bartholomew/When The Wind Arises RCA Victor 47-9546 1968

Britons by nationality The Rokes made a career based in Italy in the 60's doing cover versions of British and American tunes in Italian, notching up multiple hits (including a #1 with a reading of Bob Lind's "Cheryl's Going Home") and in doing so wound up being touted as "The Italian Beatles". The flip of  "Cheryl's..", "Piangi Con Me" (re-titled "Let's Live For Today"), was co-written by The Rokes lead singer David "Shel" Shapiro which was then covered in English by the British group the Living Daylights which later led to the Grass Roots version (several US pressings of which wrongly credit Sloan/Barri as the songwriters!) but the real reason we're here is......

Despite their stream of Italian language material the band nonetheless cut a few sides in English, the last of which was today's selection.  Released in Britain in May 17, 1968 (RCA 1694) on exactly the same day as a competing version by Wayne Fontana (re-titled "The Words Of Bartholomew" Fontana TF 933), yet another moment of British record exec treachery (you can read about a similar instance here). The track was co-written by band members David "Shel" Shapiro and Mike Shepstone. It was the band's second (and last) US 45 issued around the same time as it's UK release (their previous US 45 was "Let's Live for Today" released in May 1967 in an effort to capitalize on the Grass Roots hit issued the previous month!).

"The Works Of Bartholomew" is a light weight pop psych about a frustrated sheet metal worker who daydreams of being a famous writer.  It's layered in subtle strings/horns and sits perfectly alongside period pop-psych social observations of tales of the every-man protagonist.

The real gold is the flip "When The Wind Arises", a freakbeat/pop psych opus with its high backing vocals, driving musical backing and trippy interlude with blowing wind sound affects, faintly tinkling piano and the slowly ascending, eerie chorus.

Both sides are available on the Rev-Ola CD compilation "Let's Live For Today: The Rokes In English 1966-68".

Hear "The Works Of Bartholomew":

Hear "When The Wind Arises":

Monday, March 12, 2018

Mod Anthems Part Three: Chris Farlowe's "Buzz With The Fuzz"

CHRIS FARLOW & THE THUNDERBIRDS-Buzz With The Fuzz/You're The One UK Columbia DB 7614 1965

It's been awhile since we chose a "mod anthem" here (we discussed "My Generation" and "The London Boys" here eons ago). Today's subject was cut by Brit r&b stalwarts Chris Farlow and the Thunderbirds (the "e" was dropped from Farlowe's name on all five of his UK Columbia 45's ) and released in Britain in June 1965 and remains one of the most controversial mid 60's British 45's.

"Buzz With The Fuzz" looms large in the legend of mid 60's British mod/r&b sounds, mostly due to it's lyrics which sing about running red lights, rolling up joints, sex with an underage girl and shooting craps. It is alleged that the 45 was banned by the BBC, but I have yet to find much information on it other than that being repeated endlessly in liner notes.  Interestingly the track was not reissued until the late 80's on a Decal records Chris Farlowe LP that took it's title from the track and it was their last release on Columbia so it's possible it DID land them in hot water.  All of that out of the way musically its an amazing slice of Brit 60's mod "Flamingo" r&b: horns, organ (which replicates a police siren) , jazzy guitar breaks (care of ace guitarist Albert Lee) with a catchy delivery not unlike Gunnell Agency mates Georgie Fame and The Blue Flames.

Promotional photo for "Buzz With The Fuzz" c/o

The flip "You're The One" is another slice of frantic Brit r&b.  It's fairly pedestrian until Lee's brilliant guitar solo kicks in followed by a nifty organ solo by Dave Greenslade. Sadly this would be the last single to bear "The Thunderbirds" credit on the label.  With Farlowe's move to Andrew Loog Oldham's Immediate label a few months later his records were recorded featuring studio musicians, though The Thunderbirds continued to back him on live work. Both sides were written by Farlowe (using his real last name Deighton), Albert Lee and Thunderbirds bassist Ricky Charman.

Both sides are available on RPM's highly recommended "Dig The Buzz: Chris Farlowe & The Thunderbirds: First Recordings '62-'65" and "Buzz With The Fuzz" has surfaced on the excellent Brit 60's r&b CD comp "Take My Tip: 25 British Mod Artefacts From The EMI Vaults".

Hear "Buzz With The Fuzz":

Hear "You're The One":

Monday, March 5, 2018

Great Obscure U.K. 60's Sides: The Tornados Go Vocal

THE TORNADOS-Pop-Art Goes Mozart/Too Much In Love To Hear UK Columbia DB 7856 1966

The Tornados were by the time of this 45's release in March of 1966, related to the "Telstar" hit makers in name only. Essentially this Tornados line up were previously The Saxons, another Joe Meek produced instrumental combo who with the addition of Dave Watts (keyboards) fleshed out a "new" Tornados line up.  The other members were Robb Huxley (also known as Robb Gayle, vocals/guitar), Pete Holder (guitar), Roger Holder (bass) and John Davies (drums). Though credited as "The New Tornados" on promo photos the name was never used on records or for appearances.

"Pop-Art Goes Mozart" is your typical tedious, boring, Meek instrumental sounding like 1963 NOT 1966 despite the baroque harpsichord. Don't let the title fool you, there is nothing remotely "pop art" about this 45. Next.

The real treat is the flip side, "Too Much In Love To Hear" penned by members Pete Holder and Robb Huxley (credited here as "Gale", a misspelling of his "other" last name Gayle) . It's a rarity among Tornados 45's as it's a vocal number.  Led by some tack piano with the typical Meek production flourishes it's a moody piece , sort of a beat ballad with a nice jazzy/Shadows style guitar solo and a welcome pleasure to hear vocals on a Tornados record!! Interestingly Huxley later moved to Israel where he joined The Churchills who cut a trippy (and far improved in my book) version of the track which was comped on one of the "Strange Things Are Happening" CD comps.  For a more detailed history of the "New Tornados" check out Robb Huxley's extensive and highly informative web page here. The band would cut just one more 45 with Joe Meek, but that, as they say, is another story for another time.

Pic courtesy of Robb Huxley's website

Both sides are available on a highly recommended double CD compilation "Telstar: The Complete Tornados".

Wince at "Pop-Art Goes Mozart":

Hear "Too Much In Love To Hear":

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

February's Picks

1. "BABY FACE" WILLETTE-"Swing'n At Sugar Ray's"
Taken from his 1961 debut album on Blue Note "Face To Face", this cut by the youthful B-3 prodigy was shortened slightly for a 45 release. It swings in no small part due to Grant Green's guitar licks as well as Willette's Hammond.

2. SCRUGG-"I Wish I Was Five"
Led by South African ex-pat John Kongos, Scrugg were a psych pop quartet who cut 3 singles in the UK in the late 60's on Pye.  This nostalgic ode childhood (loss of childhood was a popular theme in UK 60's psych pop) is wrapped on lush orchestration and was featured on the flip of the band's debut 45 "Everyone Can See".

3. THE WHO-"I'm A Boy" (re-recorded version)
For ages because of the "Meaty Beaty Big And Bouncy" inclusion I had no idea that this version was re-recorded and was a full minute longer than the 1966 single version.  I have to say I prefer this version, it's tougher and harmonies are tighter and Entwistle's nifty little horn bits mesh perfectly with Townshend's almost classical music guitar bits.

Marianne's reading of Donovan's "Hampstead Incident" (re-titled here as "In The Night Time") works really well with it's somber strings and regal tack piano and seems to paint an excellent mental picture of a bleak London, the other side of the coin of the "Swinging City of '66", from her final Decca LP, 1967's  "Love in A Mist".

5. THE PYRAMIDS-"Telstar"
What I would have given to see some young, close cropped, suited and booted skinheads bopping to this funky organ skinhead reggae treatment of the Tornados/Joe Meek instrumental smash "Telstar" in a youth club. It's a 1970 single for the Trojan label and fairly hard to come by.

6. WAYNE FONTANA-"Waiting For A Break In The Clouds"
Probably the coolest thing Wayne ever did was this Mike Vickers produced/orchestrated pop psych ditty with loads of sunshine pop "do do doo's" and the usual everything but the kitchen sink production found on the flip of his utterly forgettable "Never An Every Day Thing".

7. STRANGEWAYS-"Wastin' Time"
Back in 1984 I happened upon a shop on a side street off of Carnaby Street selling boxes of '79/'80 "mod revival" 45's for 75p each.  Among them was this 45, I bought it because it had a photo of a bunch of mods on scooters on the back cover.  Owing more to early XTC than The Purple Hearts or Secret Affair (right down to the "wah-uh-oh-oh" chorus) it turns out it was produced Tommy Ramone! Strangeways is also the name of a British prison. Some lucky Japanese soul now owns my copy when I divested myself of all things mod revival on E-bay in the late 90's.....

8 THE ROLLING STONES-"Cops And Robbers (Live BBC)"
I've always preferred The Downliner's Sect version of this Bo Diddley classic.  I think it's because I prefer Don Craine's vocals over Micks, but you can't beat Brian's wailing harp and the rest of the Stones playing that make this thoroughly enjoyable.  This is available on the long awaited CD of various Stones BBC sessions from '63-'65 "On Air" (curiously like the Fab Four The Stones ceased playing live on the Beeb in '65).

9. THE TIMES-"Whatever Happened To Thamesbeat"
From their classic 1982 long player "This Is London", The Times mourn the loss of power pop with usual poppy hooks, Merseybeat-ish charm and clever lyrics from in house wordsmith/genius/lead singer Ed Ball.
"Another teenage fashion made to measure by displeasure, disillusioned with hate and anger, safety pins and studded black leather..."

10. FRED HUGHES-"Oo Wee, Baby I Love You"
Fred Hughes debut single was this 1965 Vee Jay release that is deeply indebted to Motown in it's backing vocals, brass, hand claps and production. It's slow to build momentum but it's a killer nonetheless.

Monday, February 26, 2018

More U.K. Obscurities On U.S. Labels: Brian Auger Covers The Fab Four

BRIAN AUGER & THE TRINITY-A Day In The Life/Bumpin' On Sunset US Atco 45-6656 1969

In addition to a parallel career of backing vocalist Julie Driscoll ace UK Hammond wizard Brian Auger maintained a separate career with his band The Trinity (also featuring bassist Dave Ambrose and drummer Clive Thacker, known as "Lobs" and "Toli" respectively).

Culled from his 1968 LP "Definitely What" the two tracks on this 45 were released in March of 1969 and not issued anywhere else (the flip did get released in the UK and Spain as the B side to "What You Gonna Do" however).

Auger's reading of "A Day In The Life" owes some of it's arrangements to that of the jazz guitarist Wes Montgomery's cover from his 1967 LP of the same title.  Auger's version utilizes strings similar to Montgomery's reading, though not as avant garde as his.  What's cool about it is Auger plays Montgomery's guitar licks on the B-3 and the string/brass arrangements have a more easy listening feel to them reminding me of a film score by Ron Grainer and the track is decidedly more upbeat.

Speaking of Wes Montgomery....the flip side, "Bumpin' On Sunset" is a cover of a track he wrote and recorded on his 1966 Verve LP "Tequila" (it was also a single split on two halves as Verve VK-10442). The original has a mellow "smooth jazz" feel (and I am hesitant to use that description due to negative connotations......) with a laid back feel with subtle strings and Ray Baretto adding congas. Auger's version eschews all of that and with it's somber strings and well placed organ licks again has the feel of a kitschy late 60's film score making it entirely palatable but in a different way.

Both tracks are available on the reissue of the 1968 "Definitely What" LP, which if you have not heard I cannot recommend strongly enough.

Hear "A Day In The Life":

Hear "Bumpin' On Sunset":

Monday, February 19, 2018

More U.K. Obscurities On U.S. Labels: The Ivy League Part One

THE IVY LEAGUE-Funny How Love Can Be/Lonely Room US Cameo 356 1965

Britain's Ivy League released a host of singles back home on the Piccadilly label from 1964-1967.  They were comprised of songwriters/vocalists John Carter and Ken Lewis (who had previously made records as Carter-Lewis and The Southerners) and singer Perry Ford (who cut several solo singles and one as Perry Ford and The Sapphires in 1962 featuring one of the earliest recordings of Georgie Fame and The Blue Flames as his backing band).

Carter/Lewis's "Funny How Love Can Be" was the band's second UK 45 (Piccadilly 7N 35222 January 1965, the same time as The Who's debut 45 featuring them on backing vocals!) and was their American debut when launched in March of '65.  Starting with a melodic guitar with an almost folk rock jangle, "Funny How Love Can Be" showcases the band's famous three part harmony sound that brings to mind The Four Seasons minus Frankie Valli's high vocal histrionics.

"Lonely Room" (penned by all three members) starts with some acapella vocals. It's not a horrible track but comes across as mundane at first until the wiggy guitar solo (Jimmy Page or Big Jim Sullivan?) and Beach Boys style descending harmonies punctuated by some hand claps move it along.  It was later cut by another UK Beach Boys/harmony influenced act, The Factotums (Immediate IM 009 October 1965).

Both sides are available on a variety of Ivy League compilation CD's. As their material is owned by Castle Communications they've been licensed to death and finding CD's of them is easy peasy.

Here "Funny How Love Can Be":

Hear "Lonely Room" :

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Chris Farlowe's English #1 Sinks In America

CHRIS FARLOWE-Out Of Time/Baby Make It Soon US MGM K 13567 1966

Chris Farlowe unfortunately was not able to transfer his U.K. #1 smash reading of the Stone's "Out Of Time" when it was released here in the States in August of '66 (three months after it's U.K. issue as Immediate IM 035). This was curiously not his first US 45, that honor belongs to his previous US 7", a mega rare issue of "Just A Dream"/"What You Gonna Do" which he cut with The Thunderbirds on the obscure Philly label General American way back in January 1965.

Fans of The Rolling Stones will recognize the backing track on Farlowe's reading of "Out Of Time" from the version on their "Metamorphosis" collection as it's the exact same version Mick Jagger sings over.  One would surmise this was done as a guide vocal for Farlowe although you never know. Regardless of which came first it brought Farlowe a U.K. #1 (and was at that position when England won the World Cup!). It was his first hit in his home country and sadly subsequent releases failed to reach the same heights or even remotely close to that coveted chart spot. Led by Art Greenslade's heavy duty string scoring it's not one of my favorite tracks by him (I've long preferred his pre-Immediate records stuff with The Thunderbirds). I also prefer The Stones more simplistic reading rather than this bombastic reading.  I think my chief complaint is that Farlowe always seemed to be singing out of his range on a lot of Immediate material and this one is no exception.

The flip, "Baby Make It Soon", was penned by Eric Woollfson (later of the Alan Parsons Project) and Andrew Loog Oldham. It's a halfway decent soulful ballad but nothing terribly impressive in  my estimation.

Both sides have appeared in a variety of places as Farlowe's Immediate material has been licensed (legitimately or on the never never) to everybody and their brother so there's no shortage of places to hear them (with orchestration by Art Greenslade and production by Mick Jagger again). They're both available on two in print UK Chris Farlowe CD collections "Handbags & Gladrags: The Immediate Collection" and "Out Of Time" available for purchase on CD or download from Amazon.

Hear "Out Of Time":

Hear "Baby Make It Soon":