Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Let's fight for people's rights (Bill Elliott etc) #112

Bill Elliott and The Elastic Oz Band God Save Us/ Do The Oz (Apple, APPLE 36, 1971)

A Lennon side project this one. Bill Elliott would later spend time as a Dark Horse recording artist as part of soft rock duo Splinter but here he's the vocal replacement for John. Former Beatle roadie, Mal Evans, had suggested Bill and John's guide vocal was replaced with Bill's.

John and Yoko are co-credited with Mal Evans AND Phil Spector with production!!!! What the hey? This must be one of the most unique production credits ever. In case you're wondering what Mal brought to the party - he recorded/produced Bill's vocal.

The Oz of the song refers to a radical underground newspaper published in London that was targeted by the man at the time. There was an obscenity trial and John wanted to show his support. Hence the single.

I quite like it (I'm a Lennon completist so I would say that) - it's got spunk and spirit and heart and it's nicely played (Ringo on drums, Klaus Voormann on bass, John guitar) and sung. It was never going to be a hit but nevermind. Everyone's hearts were in the right place.

Hidden gem: The B side and A side were swapped around at the last minute and so the more general God Save Us became the A side with the specific Do The Oz support becoming the B side. It's Ono influenced in it's directness and reminds me of Scumbag on the Zappa collaboration.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Dance with the man with the mongoose on his back (Elephants Memory) #110-111

Elephants Memory Liberation Special/ Madness (Apple, APPLE-10095, 1972)

Elephants Memory Power Boogie/ Liberation Special (Apple, APPLE 45, 1972)

There are many things I love about these two singles. Here's a partial list:
  • They were released in 1972
  • They are on Apple Records
  • The band is from New York City
  • They were produced by John and Yoko
  • John plays guitar
  • There are more guitars
  • They rock!!
The band often gets a bad press, if they are remembered at all. 

Okay they were REALLY lucky to be in the right place at the right time to meet the Lennons and appear on both their Approximately Infinite Universe and Sometime In New York City albums and have John/Yoko produce their own album. 

I bought other Elephants Memory (yes, no apostrophe folks) albums and trust me - this was easily their best album/ set of songs.

Hidden gem: All tracks are from the parent album so there is no rarity value. Apple 45 provides great value as a single with a double A side combo and the best sampler of the band's wares.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Jukebox blowin' a fuse (ELO) #109

Electric Light Orchestra Roll Over Beethoven/ Manhattan Rumble (49th Street Massacre) (Harvest, HAR 5063, 1972)

I admit it - ELO were a guilty pleasure that I denied for a while but eventually I capitulated and outed myself.

Early ELO has a different feel to the more commercial version that would have all the great hits, which I also love. For one reason, Jeff Lynne plays some hot guitar on those early tracks such as this standout guitar wig out (and others on ELO 2 which featured an 8 plus minute version of Roll Over Beethoven).

The song itself is, of course, a remodeling of the Chuck Berry original with a great great intro (the fragment of Beethoven's fifth symphony gives way to that awesome guitar riff).

Hidden Gem: The B side is a weird off kilter instrumental work out for the band. All disjointed and jagged strings and piano. It's probably quite clever and makes allusions to all sorts of classical or musical stuff that I've heard of before. I don't like it much.

Friday, December 6, 2013

I told you way back in '52 that I would never stay with you (Dave Edmunds) #108

Dave Edmunds I Hear You Knocking/ Black Bill (Decca, DEC 525, 1970)

According to someone (on Wikipedia):

""I Hear You Knocking" is a popular rhythm and blues song with emphatic syncopation, written by Dave Bartholomew and Earl King (under the pen name Pearl King) and published in 1955. The original recording was made by Smiley Lewis, reaching #2 on the Billboard R&B singles chart in 1955".

I'll take their word for it but I have no clue what 'emphatic syncopation' means!

When I first heard Dave Edmunds' version I thought he was an old blues guy. I had no idea who he was. At the time I had no access to Top Of The Pops, but I'd been alerted to him by John Lennon, who told Rolling Stone magazine that I hear You Knocking was his favourite new recording.

That was good enough for me so I bought a copy and you know what? Dr. Winston O'Boogie was spot on. And do you know what else? The song holds up.

The heavily treated vocal is what conveys the deception - making him sound like a haggard old bluesman; I understand that now that I've heard Dave on other things. 

The slide guitar would also have appealed to Mr Lennon, I'm sure.

Hidden gem: The B side is an okay instrumental named in honour of Bill Black - bassist for Elvis in the early years. It's relatively rare in that it didn't appear on Dave's subsequent album Rockpile, but it has turned up as a bonus track on reissues.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

We make it harder than it has to be (The Eagles) #107

Oh how we larffed.
The Eagles I Can't Tell You Why/ The Greeks Don't Want No Freaks (Asylum, E 46 608, 1979)

The group Eagles (to give them their real name) had a lot of hits but I only have this one single by them and I think I must have picked it up cheap while working at Marbecks, in a moment of weakness, at gunpoint. 

They had better songs and bigger hits but I'm not what you'd term a big fan. 

I like some of their early songs and I do own Desperado (I'm a sucker for faux western imagery) and I bought an early, pre mega success, version of their Greatest Hits album but I must be one of the few who never felt tempted to buy Hotel California! And I still don't!

When Bernie Leadon left he took any country rock authenticity the band ever had with him. Alas. 

Same thing, to a lesser extent, when Randy Meisner departed. Randy is cool because he played in Rick Nelson's band!

I Can't Tell You Why is definitely at the sappy end of the continuum. I can't tell you why I own it. I really can't.

It's sung by Timothy B. Schmit. Ye gods - that name! That hair! That ever so cosy pose! That earnest puppy dog expression! That languid 'cool' bass style that makes me wanna strangle him!

Hidden gem: Eagles try to rock out on the B side and it just doesn't wash. They go for a garagey feel (the organ and spider guitar sound) but Don Henley does not have the kind of voice to pull that off. No rarity value - both songs appeared on The Long Run.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

I'm gonna get some concrete mix and fill your back door up with bricks (Dr. Feelgood) #105, 106

Dr. Feelgood Roxette/ Keep It Out Of Sight (United Artists Records, K 6601, 1976)

Dr. Feelgood See You Later Alligator/ I Love You So You're Mine (Stiff, K 193, 1986)

Ten years separates these singles and it shows. While the live version of Roxette from Stupidity still blazes a trail, See You Later sounds like a pale imitation of the band.

The difference is personnel. The only original member on the '86 version is Lee Brilleaux. The band sound is completely different without Wilco Johnson's idiosyncratic guitar style. Gone is the original raw R'n'B sound!

I have a soft spot for the original band; I lived in Leigh-On-Sea and taught students from Canvey Island at King John School in Benfleet, and knowing the area helps.

Canvey is such a weird place - anyone coming from there (Wilco was born on Canvey Island and the band started life there) is going to be touched by the tough environment. It was a pretty dire place when I lived in Essex in the early 2000's so I can only imagine how rough it was in the early seventies.

Sadly Lee died at an early age from cancer and Wilco is on his way out - having refused treatment for his cancer. A great story about him appeared in Mojo recently.

Hidden gems: Keep It Out Of Sight is great - a gritty song from one of the studio albums (Down By The Jetty). All muscle guitar from Wilco and attitude from Lee. What a combination. It's the real deal - they mean it man!

I Love You blah blah is complete garbage. Hard to know why they thought this was a good idea - maybe they didn't care!

Anyway - forget that - remember them this way:


Thursday, November 28, 2013

Grab your mates and head for the beach (The Dressing Gowns) #104

Dressing Gowns Surfing At Piha/ Eatin Bananas In The Bahamas (CBS, BA 461 977, 1981)

Okay, this one is REALLY odd.

I bought this while working at Marbecks because it was a laugh and Roger and I loved it!

He was (still is) a surfer dude, I was (still am) not!

The CBS rep loved this so he pushed it which is how Rog and I heard it. I think we both liked the simplicity and the amateur, almost punkish/low-fi style which was pretty refreshing in 1981.

I have no idea who The Dressing Gowns were (or are now), and this is one time Google has not been able to help. I did find a link to someone selling a copy on Trade me - $2.50 + postage. So not a rare goldmine item either then!

Any edge the song had in 1981 has pretty much gone after over thirty years but it's still a nifty little ditty.

Hidden gem: The B side is a slower attempt at a novelty song and doesn't work.

Monday, November 25, 2013

I'm gonna pack my bag, head out of town (Dragon) #103

Dragon Education/ Swell Foot Sue (Vertigo, 6036 909, 1975)

Okay - this is an odd one. You know that expression - fall between the cracks? Well this is one's cracks, if you will.

Education does not appear on the album Dragon released on Vertigo in 1975 (Scented Gardens For The Blind) nor is it in that album's progressive style.

Instead it's a guitar led poppy song, with great Todd Hunter bass lines, that points toward the direction this great Nu Zild band would go in once they moved across the ditch to Aussie. Which they did just after this single was released. I lost interest in them around that time btw - mainly because they didn't release anything here for a couple of years and by 1977 my tastes had shifted a little.

It's a transitional single that did pretty good business in 1975 as I recall - I certainly bought the single after hearing it on Radio Hauraki and tried to buy the album but I got distracted by other sounds before I could get around to it.

What's kind of unusual is it doesn't actually sound like Dragon. Marc Hunter developed a really distinctive vocal style in time but this doesn't sound like him. Maybe it's guitarist Robert Taylor, writer of the song, who's singing? I don't know.

Hidden gem: The B side is written by fellow guitarist Ray Goodwin and is a rocky little number that also points towards the good time Dragon sound we came to know and love. Just not quite there yet.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Into this world we're thrown like a dog without a bone (The Doors) #102

The Doors Riders On The Storm/ Changeling (Elektra, EKM 45738, 1971)

Apparently (according to Ray Manzarek) this was the last song recorded by the members of The Doors with Jim Morrison. The single was released in 1971, shortly before Morrison's death, entering the charts on 3 July 1971, the day that Morrison died.

I have a very distinct memory of hearing this song for the first time. I was 14, waiting for my mother in the car outside an antique shop in Auckland when this song came on the radio. It was one of those moments of epiphany that come along from time to time. Something connected me to the song there and then.

In my head I immediately linked it to the Marvel comics character - The Silver Surfer. I don't know why (I was 14! Strange associations pop into my mind still) but I guess it was the rider/storm idea.

I didn't really consider the literal situation of the song - the killer on the road (I misheard this for years - thinking it was 'row' as in death row) and the sweet family who he'd kill - instead I was riding the cosmic storm as the Silver Surfer!

Being the teenage me - I also misheard those sound effects for years as well - I thought they were waves crashing on a beach!

The video below is the edited single version - some three minutes shorter than the album version. Just shows - if it's a great song it can stand up to rough treatment.

Hidden gem: The B side is also on LA Woman and not their strongest track - again - a worthy B side but nothing particularly special.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

To freak out or to be beautiful? (The Doors) #100 and 101 (of about 300 singles)

The Doors Love Her Madly/ (You Need Meat) Don't Go No Further  (Elektra, EKM 45726, 1971)

The Doors Wishful Sinful/ Who Scared You  (Elektra, EK 45656, 1969)

Two contrasting singles from The (mighty) Doors (Of Perception) kick off the next hundred singles in my collection.

Love Her Madly is a terrific pop song. They could write nifty singles when they wanted to. Even though the lyrics are very basic, they are on the top of their game here.

Wishful Sinful is NOT a terrific pop song. I'm not exactly sure what they were attempting with this song. It's not rock and roll, there's no bluesy Doors sound going on here and it's not pop. A bizarre choice for a single. Sure enough it bombed!

Hidden gems: The two B sides are reasonably rare in the Doors discography in that they are two of only three B sides that did NOT appear on their current albums (I'm sure they've appeared on compilations since and what with the interweb/ Spotify/ Amazon/ itube etc they are no longer rare songs - a good AND a bad thing in my humble).

You Need Meat is a cover of a Willie Dixon song and is an okay version - you can't improve on Willie though so...

Who Scared You is a Morrison/Krieger song that didn't make the cut for The Soft Parade. Oh dear - not their best album is it? Who Scared You is actually a pretty choice cut and is much better than a lot of the stuff on the album. Some nice organ from Ray, some tasteful brass parts and a sinewy little riff propel the song forward. Unfortunately it's not a great vocal performance from Jim so that was that - it made a B side.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

It belongs to P F Sloan (Rumer) #99

Devo Secret Agent man/ Red Eye (Warner Brothers Records, WBS 49028, 1979)

I can never think of Devo without thinking of Woody Boyd on Cheers in this episode (go to the 40 sec mark). 

They have, of course, become an old group now, but there was a time when they were at the cutting edge of rock music.
Unfortunately, compared to their early stuff, this single sees them more as a mainstream rock outfit. It comes from their Duty Now For The Future album which was received with less than glowing reviews at the time.

The song itself is written in part by P F Sloan (you'll maybe recognise the name from a superb song by Rumer...


Secret Agent Man was written for an early sixties TV show. Many artists have had a go at it: Mel Torme, Johnny Rivers and Devo are obviously among them. Johnny had the big hit with it in 1966 (I include it for comparison and coz it's the best version for my money)

It's both a catchy song and a catchy version.

Hidden gem: The B side is also on the album so no rarity value. It's also a catchy song with a catchy chorus but, like so many songs chosen for B sides - it's true home is on a B side.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Sha la, la, la, la, la, la (Derek) #98

Derek Cinnamon/ This Is My Story (Stateside, MSS 2218, 1968)

As far as I can work out, Derek was actually Scottish singer/songwriter/record producer Johnny Cymbal (real name John Blair). Johnny was responsible for a few hits in the bubble-gum pop genre - notably Mr Bass Man.

As was the fashion in bubble-gum circles, Johnny chose to record under different pseudonyms using fictitious 'group' names, or, as was the case here with Cinnamon, using his brother Derek's name.  Weird!

I love a lot of the disposable bubble-gum stuff. Cinnamon has a craziness that is very infectious. Pop should be fun at heart and Johnny knew the formula, with girly chorus oooohhhss, nonsensical sha la la las and, of course, snigger snigger, the double entendre lyrics.

Hidden gem: An emphatic NO!! The B side is utter rubbish (and not in a good way) - a slow croon without any of the infectiousness that oozes from the A side. Really disposable!

Thursday, October 31, 2013

It's time to taste what you most fear (Dead Kennedys) #97

Dead Kennedys Holiday In Cambodia/ Police Truck (Cherry Red Records, Cherry 13, 1980)

Appropriately, the next single after The Damned's New Rose is a punk single from the US.

The Dead Kennedys are fronted by the charismatic nutcase who is Jello Biafra (real name Eric Reed Boucher). The other members of this rocking beat combo on the single are East Bay Ray on guitars, Klaus Flouride on bass, and...Bruce Slesinger on drums. Bit anti-climactic that last name - you'd have thought he'd come up with something to rival Rat Scabies of The Damned, but no - it's Bruce!

Amazingly, the band were formed in the city of peace and love - San Francisco. A great city - it's hard to see why a band playing hardcore punk would be distilled from the vibe of SF but there you go. a great song with a great message and a great driving momentum thanks to Klaus on bass and Jello's idiosyncratic and passionate vocal delivery.

All up, it's rather like Motorhead's Ace Of Spades - a hardcore song that somehow touched the general public's imagination without any sign of compromise.

Hidden gem: The B side is a similar slice of rock'n'roll vitriol - this time directed at lazy violent police people as in the famous LAPD Rodney King incident. Jello spits out the lyrics (literally). Gotta love the energy!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Is she really going out with him? (The Damned) #96

The Damned New Rose/ Help (Skydog Records, DAM 001, 1976)

This was the first single issued in the UK by The Damned and also the first punk single as well - before The Sex Pistols could get their act together with Anarchy In The UK.

My copy came from France - I ordered it from a UK mail order company in 1977 and it duly arrived. I was certainly not a punk in any way shape or form but I responded to the energy I was reading about in Sounds magazine at the time and fired off my order.

It's a great single - the A side is a perfect do-it-yourself stab at guitar based rock and roll noise. What I also love about it is that it's a love song - not a song about hate and anarchy and boredom.

Hidden gem: The B side is actually why I bought the single in the first place. The lure of a punk band doing a Beatle cover must have appealed to John Lennon as well. I'm sure he would have loved this version. His original cry from the heart is embellished by The Damned's breakneck pace. Their version lasts for 1 minute and change and feels shorter!

Saturday, October 26, 2013

August wastrels (Dance Exponents) #95

Dance Exponents If Only I Could Die (And Love You Still)Worldwide Wireless (Zulu Records, Z 003, 1986)

Before they were The Exponents they were The Dance Exponents. In NZ, they were a great singles band with hit after hit, starting with the wonderful Victoria.

Those early hits were for, the most part, rooted in the prevalent eighties sound though. Things changed with this single (it's the only one I own - as the boys morphed into an album band with Something Beginning With C).

If Only... is a proper rock song and a great slice of energy. I was immediately won over by the video at the time. Jordan Luck has great presence as a front man, as well as being a great lead vocal, and the band strike all the right rock poses.

Hidden gem: The B side appeared, like the A side, as a track on their Amplifier album. It's nothing special in the Dance Exponents universe, although it's instantly recognisable as their sound. It's a B side sure, and an okay album track.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

What is that thing on my radio? (Sonny Curtis) # 94

Sonny Curtis A Beatle I Want To BeSo Used To Loving You (Colpix Records, D 1024, 1964)

This is a really weird one.

Sonny (his real name) is not a name everyone knows but rock fans know his songs and viewers of the Mary Tyler Moore Show (my dad's favourite) know his theme song Love Is All Around. And fans of Buddy Holly know he was a friend and a band mate at one time and that he joined The Crickets after Buddy Holly's tragic death.

Yes Sonny is responsible for writing the wonderful I Fought The Law (I love the Clash version as well as Bobby Fuller's) and other hits like Walk Right Back (a hit for the Everlys).

In 1964 he put out this effort - an early cash in on the Beatle invasion. I'm sure Holly fans John Lennon and Paul McCartney knew of Sonny's links to their hero. Nice that Sonny could get in on the act in this way.

It's a fun little ditty - jaunty and good humoured and not too patronising. Given it was 1964 Sonny can be safely called a pioneer as well as bandwagon hopper.

Hidden gem: The B side is a cross over pop country weepie (Curtis was to have an increasing career in the country charts) which has nothing very wonderful about it.

Monday, October 14, 2013

It's not far to never-never land (Christopher Cross) # 93

Christopher Cross SailingPoor Shirley (Warner Bros, WBS 49507, 1980)

Do you remember Chris Cross (not his real name obviously - no parent is that cruel)? He was huge back in the day - basically December 1979 to 1981, and basically one album (his first) did all the business. After that it was all downhill and nothing he released subsequently did anywhere near the volume that the debut did.

Sailing is a track off that mega seller and  it is very representative of the glossy LA session sound that exists on that album.

Here is a partial list of the crème de la crème musicians who feature on the album:
  • Larry Carlton - guitar
  • Valerie Carter - vocals, background vocals
  • Christopher Cross - guitar, vocals 
  • Chuck Findley - trumpet
  • Don Henley - vocals, background vocals
  • Jim Horn - saxophone
  • Nicolette Larson - vocals, background vocals
  • Michael McDonald - vocals, background vocals
  • Michael Omartian - synthesizer, keyboards, vocals, background vocals
  • J.D. Souther - vocals, background vocals

  • Slick and glossy all the way.

    How an unknown could gather all of those stars behind him is beyond me.

    Hidden gem: The B side is another track from the debut. It's a bit forgettable. I had to play the B side to remember the toon. So not hidden or even a gem then.

    Friday, October 11, 2013

    I'm just about to lose my mind honey honey (Creedence Clearwater Revival) # 92

    Creedence Clearwater Revival I Heard It Through The GrapevineGood Golly Miss Molly (Fantasy, K6270, 1975)

    John Fogarty is one of rock's finest writers (Fortunate Son, Bad Moon Rising, Proud Mary, Green River et al) so it's curious that this single is made up of two cover versions.

    It was released by Fantasy to tie in with compilations - Creedence Gold and More Creedence Gold. I actually don't have a problem with all the Creedence Clearwater Revival compilations out there coz they were a terrific singles band. They are a bit like The 'Oo in that regard. Meaty Beaty Big and Bouncy is a superb compilation but it only scratches the surface of Townshend's brilliance. Similarly the Creedence compilations are great but beyond the singles there lurked another version; just have a listen to Green River, my favourite album of theirs.

    Their version of the Whitfield-Strong song settles into a great groove and tries for something different to the Motown Records originals. Marvin Gaye had the hit but Smokey Robinson and Gladys Knight had previous versions as well in the sixties. Length for one thing - their version on Cosmo's Factory was around eleven minutes long, this edited single version clocks in at a modest 3:58.

    Hidden gem: The A side is sedate in comparison to the rave up version of the Little Richard rocker. It's a perfect fit for John Fogarty's shredded vocal style.

    Tuesday, October 8, 2013

    Hooray, up she rises (Country Joe McDonald) # 91

    Country Joe Mcdonald Save The Whales!Oh, Jamaica (Fantasy, K6355, 1975)

    Country Joe had an interesting career as a solo performer after the split with the Fish. Interesting is an interesting word. It is a weasel word in some senses - his career wobbled and finally collapsed (in terms of commercial potential and critical acclaim - he's still alive and well and putting out albums) under the weight of all the increased activism after his turn at Woodstock.

    His album Goodbye Blues (which I like a lot, bear in mind) is a lot like Lennon's Sometime In New York City - a potpourri of good causes but when all lumped together it comes across a little like rent-a-cause.

    Still - you can't help admire the energy and the good intention that Joe puts into songs like Save The Whales.

    Hidden gem: The B side comes from a previous album - Paradise With An Ocean View and it's a curious choice for a B side. It's a cod reggae paean to er...Jamaica and Jamaican weed (mon). Ho hum!

    Sunday, September 29, 2013

    With the way you look i understand that you are not impressed (Elvis Costello) # 90

    Elvis Costello 1 Accidents Will Happen 2 AlisonWatching the Detectives (Radar, SAM 90, 1978)

    This is a weird one - live versions of these three Elvis classics recorded at Hollywood High School of all places.

    For a while there I was, once again, going to blame WEA NZ for their hilarious incompetence with 'accidents' misspelled on the sleeve as 'adcicents' (bottom right), but the sleeve seems to have been designed that way on purpose. Geddit? Accidents will happen. What a jolly jape eh.

    I must confess I am not much of an Elvis fan. I only have two of his albums - Armed Forces was given to me by a co-worker at Marbecks and I bought Spike because of the Macca connection, being as it was a kind of companion album to Macca's wonderful Flowers In The Dirt.

    This single was included with the Armed Forces album. No idea why. The album is a strong one with Oliver's Army being a great song.

    He's a good song writer, of that there is no doubt - these three songs are all fantastic songs. I'm not that impressed with the solo piano version of Accidents but Alison is a hard song to muck up and Elvis does a pretty good version here (sadly couldn't find it on youtube though).

    So why haven't I bought more of his stuff? The adcicents thing sums it up. He's a smart arse! Too clever by half! I just do not warm to him. There it is. A peculiar, non scientific bias.

    Hidden gem: The weirdness continues as the A side features two songs but the B side only has one.


    Friday, September 27, 2013

    Just about to lose my mind (Eric Clapton) #88-89

    Eric Clapton (sic) LaylaLayla Part 2 (Polydor 2058 263, 1972)

    Eric Clapton Tulsa TimeCocaine (RSO POLY 81, 1980)

    Everyone now knows the Layla soap opera story concerning Slowhand's obsession with Patti Boyd, Hari Georgeson's wife, but back in 1972 I had no access to hindsight so my reaction to Layla was purely on a musical level.

    And back in 1972 the guitar riff was king! This is one of the best and most easily recognisable riffs in all of rockdom. Air guitar glory!

    The NZ version of this single dispenses with the Derek and The Dominos thing, probably due to incompetence, and tells it like it is - Clappers back in form and control. Little did I know how wrong that impression was but I wouldn't have cared anyway back in the day. Pre social media, it was all about the music maan.

    Tulsa Time is Clapton in laid back mode. Nuff said. I have no idea why I own this single.

    Hidden gems: The Layla B side is the slow coda to the song and on its own without the rip snort bust of the first part it's pretty anaemic as a B side.

    Cocaine is well known. It's a great loping song but I've always been disturbed by the lyric which seems to advocate for the drug. Unlike Jackson Browne's song about cocaine (now I'm losing touch with reality and I'm almost out of blow) there appears to be no irony in J J Cale's song. She don't lie? Really?? On its own it may have a case but repeated again and again throughout the song?

    Friday, September 20, 2013

    Ooee what a lovely pair (Citizen Band) #86 - 87

    Citizen Band The Ladder SongMartin: Spaceman (Pete's Best) (Mandrill Drill 8,  1978)

    Citizen Band Somebody Else/ Holy Fulele (Mandrill Drill 11,  1978)

    Clearly the boys were huge Beatles fans (Pete Best was the drummer before Richard Starkey). This pair of singles are examples of superior hero worship at work.

    The Ladder Song is my favourite CB song. It has great lyrics with hints of naughtiness, it has a stonking riff by Greg Clark, it has a brilliant vocal from Geoff Chunn, and I'm a sucker for stop start dynamics in a song.

    Somebody Else is a worthy single but it wasn't a hit at the time. It's from the melodic Beatle inspired heart of the band and wasn't included on either of the first two albums.

    Hidden gems: Martin etc is quirky and a B side is its rightful home (like You Know My Name by The Beatles), but Holy Fulele is the real deal. It's a great dumb pop song. It knows it (Mike Chunn has a certain Louie Louie vocal style) and it doesn't try to be anything but a great dumb pop song. Like My Pohutakawa it revels in its kiwiana clothes.

    Neither song appeared on albums so I guess you'll have to take my word for it.

    Wednesday, September 18, 2013

    I was far out, I was groovy (Citizen Band) #84 - 85

    Citizen Band In A LifetimeGood Morning Citizen (Mandrill M 10007,  1977)

    Citizen Band I Feel Good/ 1 Good Morning Citizen 2 My Pohutakawa (Mandrill Drill 4,  1977)

    I'm pretty sure it was my old school friend, and (in 1977) my varsity buddy, Greg Knowles who broke the news about Citizen Band. He'd heard about them, maybe from his big brother Michael or maybe it was his sister Susan (pretty sure it wasn't his mum although she was pretty hip as I remember).

    Anyway GK was a fan and pretty soon, after he shared the secret, so was I. We loved them partly because they were so accessible. Our new University friend, Kevin Simms, had a tape of Citizen Band and Hello Sailor live at Westlake Girls' High School - the bands often played college gigs - they were cunning! How great was that - we were practically related!

    We knew Mike from Split Ends (before they became the Enz) and we'd seen Geoff in After Hours at the Old Maid(ment) Theatre at Auckland University before Waves played. We knew Eccles and Clark from the awesome Space Waltz album.

    We were ready for Citizen Band!
    In A Lifetime had stiffed before Greg shared his discovery and I was ignorant of its existence until after I Feel Good and the other great songs on their first album - Citizen Band.

    In A Lifetime didn't make the album, whereas the B side did! The A side is an okay song but it's not representative of the boys' quirky sense of humour and the melodies that would later come pouring out of the classic Geoff Chunn/ Warren Sly writing partnership.

    It's I Feel Good where the CB story really starts. A remake of the old Larry's Rebels song; it injects more drive (go Brent!), more infectious fun and more guitar to the original great song. It's become a CB signature tune.

    Hidden gems: Good Morning Citizen was clearly a band favourite - it appears as two B sides and is the opening track on their first album but it's not a great song. That description does apply to My Pohutakawa. It IS a great kiwi song.

    You're my Pohutakawa, you're my greenstone, my paua, you're the mussel in my sholes, the sausage in my rolls.

    Genius! Sholes rhymes with rolls! That's CB at its finest.

    They redid the song for the album so this single version is quite rare and I prefer the energy here to the album version. Looking for an alternative national anthem? Right here!

    Friday, September 13, 2013

    I'm still thinking about all the things she never said (The Church) # 82 and 83

    The Church Tear It All AwayShe Never Said (Stunn BFA 022,  1981)

    The Church You're Still Beautiful/ Hunter 
    (Mushroom K 10121,  1990)

    It was the video to The Unguarded Moment (also from the debut album Of Skins And Heart) that alerted me to the band in the first instance so here it is (followed by the A side under examination).

    I love that sepia wash/ blissed out/ paisley look. The sound is great too - classic jangly pop. Right up my street! So collecting The Church became a new craze for me back in the eighties, never mind that they were a bunch of Bruce's from Aussie.

    A quick check in my record collection tells me that I lost interest after Starfish in 1988. So the second single was bought much later from a throw bin somewhere or other.

    Hidden gems: I love She Never Said - it's very much of the time - all new romantic pout and guitar driven psychedelic psounds. I'm also a sucker for false stops and starts. Hunter is a rare track - it didn't appear on the parent album - the lacklustre Gold Afternoon Fix, and it's fine as far as it goes - guitar driven pop but not very memorable. It's a 'clearly a left over track from the album' scenario.

    Wednesday, September 11, 2013

    Why you snotty nosed... (Cheech and Chong) # 81

    Cheech And Chong Earache My Eye/ Turn That Thing Down (A&M Records K 5697,  1974)

    I'm fast coming to the conclusion that I own an awful lot of weird singles!

    Cheech and Chong's shtick was very much of the time. The early seventies so...what else but two drug addled bumbling idiots. It was funny as heck fire though back in the day, apparently. Seems pretty tame to me now.

    1974 and I'm into my second year of fifth form at Mt Albert Grammar and hanging out with music lovers who have great senses of humour. We didn't love Cheech and Chong but they were of the time so I bought their Wedding Album record (which contained Earache...). I tired of the record so it's long gone but somehow I hung onto the single.

    Actually, I have no idea why Cheech and Chong appealed to me. Like Ian Paice (Deep Purple's drummer) I've never felt the need/urge to take a mind altering substance (nor did any of my friends), so comical drug fuelled routines shouldn't really be something that I would enjoy.

    And sure enough this single does not feature the duo in blissed out ooohhhh wow maaaaaan form. 

    Instead it's a pretty cunning satire on Alice Cooper/ David Bowie style glam rock before it preaches to the converted by having the crusty old man ripping the needle off the record and telling his 'son' to get ready for school.  

    Like pretty much all comedy records it's only funny for a few spins - then it seeps into the consciousness so that you can recite the four Yorkshiremen skit by Monty Python forty years later!

    Hidden gem: The B side is just part two of the A side but it is the stronger side thanks to its focus on some guitar shredding by famed Canadian guitarist Gaye James Delorme who died in 2011.

    Friday, September 6, 2013

    I'm going to camp out on the land, I'm going to try an' get my soul free (Joni Mitchell) # 80

    Chapman And White Nambassa/ You And I Together (Mandrill Drill 2,  1977)

    Ah...Nambassa, New Zealand's Woodstock - a naive but laudable attempt to marry new age sensibilities (yes - hippies) to music.

    I went to the last Nambassa held in January 1981 - a five-day celebration of music, crafts and alternative lifestyles culture on a farm at Waitawheta Valley between Waihi and Waikino.

    The attendance was low - 15,000 which suited me. The 1979 festival had been mega - 75,000 which would have been intolerable. As it was the toilets were abysmal and, even though it was January the rain poured down. 

    I was at University at the time, in the middle of a masters' degree and Brett, a friend at varsity, talked me into going with him. I'm glad he did too. It was an experience for sure. The line up of musicians and speakers (Ram Dass for instance) was an eye opener for me (my stand outs are in bold):
  • Dizzy Gillespie
  • Billy TK 
  • John Mayall
  • Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee 
  • Charlie Daniels 
  • Kevin Borich 
  • Topp Twins
  • The Roger Fox Big Band
  • Limbs Dance Company
  • Dr Richard Alpert (aka Baba Ram Dass)

  • Chapman and White wrote the Nambassa anthem in 1977 and it suited perfectly the ambiance of trippy hippy freedom of expression (ok, yes - nudity) that was part of the Nambassa vibe.

    Hidden gem: The B side is more pleasant melodic acoustic music but the vocals are not distinctive enough and so it's a kind of Donovanesque folky trip, maan. Nice though.

    Monday, September 2, 2013

    I set to sea on a ship called Emptiness (Eric Carmen) # 79

    Eric Carmen She Did It/ Someday (Arista BL 345,  1977)

    Eric had it all and he gave it all away.

    The ecstasy he created in The Raspberries flamed out over a series of solo albums that produced diminishing returns. The Raspberries were a fantastic group - with Eric the Pete Ham/John Lennon of the band: rhythm guitar, great singer, great songwriter.

    The eighties were not kind to him and although, yes, he had a couple of hits (Hungry Eyes from Dirty Dancing anyone?) the output and the quality dipped and then dwindled. Today he's pretty much retired and living off his royalties.

    But in 1977 he still had it! Oh boy did he!

    She Did It is a cool little song from the mostly excellent The Boats Against The Current album.

    Hidden gem: The B side was left off Boats Against The Current but appeared on his next album, the patchy Change Of Heart. The decision pretty much shows what I mean about diminishing returns. Someday is good but not great, makes a great B side and is a worthy song but it wasn't considered strong enough to make BATC. Nuff said, I rest my case your honour. 


    Friday, August 30, 2013

    Love is like a stove - burns you when it's hot (Jim Capaldi) #78

    Jim Capaldi Love Hurts/ Sugar Honey (Island K 6201,  1975)

    Let's hear it for the working drummer!

    Jim Capaldi was multi-talented (he died in 2005): a singer, song writer, pianist and drummer (for Traffic most notably, a group he co-founded with the awesome Steve Winwood).

    Love Hurts is not an original song by Jim though. It was written by Felice and Boudleaux Bryant who wrote some great songs for The Everly Brothers back in the day. The Everly's actually recorded the song first in 1960 but plenty of others have had a go over the years. Nazareth's great rock version is notable but Roy Orbison, Emmylou Harris with Gram Parsons, Cher and Rod Stewart have also given it a whirl.

    Jim had the biggest success of them all with a #4 position in the UK charts in 1975.

    Hidden gem: The B side is a Jim original. His singing voice is a dead ringer for John Lennon's at times and that's the case on this pleasant little rockabilly number. The song does not appear on Short Cut Draw Blood (the parent album to Love Hurts in 1975) so it's reasonably rare as well.

    Wednesday, August 28, 2013

    Don't blame it on the sunshine...blame it on the boogie (The Jacksons) #77

    Canned Heat On The Road Again/ Boogie Music (Liberty LYK 2471,  1968)

    And so we move on the C's with some timeless music from Canned Heat.

    Who were they?

    Canned Heat was a band launched by two blues enthusiasts, Al (Blind Owl) Wilson and Bob (The Bear) Hite, who took the name from Tommy Johnson's 1928 "Canned Heat Blues".

    After appearances at Monterey and Woodstock, at the end of the 1960s the band acquired worldwide fame. Ask any sixties casualty who was supposedly at Woodstock about Canned Heat and the big bearded/ pony tailed vision of The Bear is bound to come up (maan).

    On The Road Again was lifted from their second album - 1968's Boogie With Canned Heat. The line up at this time was Bob Hite, vocals, Alan Wilson, guitar, harmonica and vocals, Henry Vestine on lead guitar, Larry Taylor on bass, and Adolfo de la Parra on drums.

    It's a great song that is credited to F Jones and A Wilson - meaning that Blind Owl 'borrowed' an old blues song by Floyd Jones (who, as is the way with the blues, had borrowed it from elsewhere). Al sings the song in his distinctive way with a drone instrument securely anchoring the song (in the sixties).

    Hidden gem: Boogie Music was not originally on the parent album (it's been added as a bonus track to CD editions). It's a manifesto song - boogie music has a pleasant sound etc.

    Saturday, August 24, 2013

    Won't somebody tell me what Diddy Wah Diddy means? (The Blues Band) #76

    The Blues Band  1 Maggie's Farm 2 Ain't It Touch (sic) / Diddy Wah Diddy 2 Back Door Man (Arista AEP 1,  1980)

    More crap misspelling of a title by sloppy NZ EMI people. How could they mislabel Ain't It Tuff with Ain't It Touch? Weird.

    The Blues Band contains Paul Jones (you'll remember him as the voice on those old Manfred Mann hits). He's great. Really Paul Jones could sing any old tosh (Ain't It Tuff - a Blues Band original which doesn't work) and it would sound amazing - he has that great a voice - so imagine the quality if he's given some Dylan and some Willie Dixon to sing.

    Having said that - in this instance the choice of Dylan song is a little weird. I've never really rated Maggie's Farm as a song. It seems to me to be a minor Dylan song that has been invested with more meaning than it possesses. It's the Rolling Thunder era Dylan recasting of the song as a shambolic romp that works the best for me. Here The Blues Band take a light  hearted approach that gives the song a lighter, different, sheen.

    Hidden gems: The B side is mos def the better side. The EP's covers recipe is complete if we throw in an old Blind Blake song (Diddy Wah Diddy) and then round it off with some Willie Dixon genius. Back Door Man is done low down and dirty with some genuine menace. Creepy in a groovy kind of way.

    Thursday, August 22, 2013

    Hey, psst psst, here she comes now (Blondie) #75

    Blondie  Rip Her To Shreads (sic)/ X Offender (Chrysalis K 6973,  1976)

    Another example of sloppy NZ production as they misspell the A side title which is almost appropriate as Blondie came surfing in on the punk wave. Almost, but Deborah Harry and the blokes in Blondie were no punks. Check out the snazzy suits in the video below.

    They were a pop outfit whose commercial and creative peak came two years after this single in 1978 with the Parallel Lines masterpiece.

    Back in '76 though they were just starting out. As far as I can tell Rip It To Shreds (to give it its correct title) was paired with two songs outside of NZ (In The Flesh and X Offender) - so we were short changed here.

    Never mind eh. Rip It... is a great slice of attitude from Debbie Harry and Blondie. Apparently about gossip columnists but who knows?

    They wisely don't go beyond their abilities and try for a full on snarl. Instead it's a tongue in cheek glide.

    Hidden gem: X Offender was an A side in its own right so it is a quality Blondie moment as well. Good value for money, although both songs were from their first album - Blondie.

    Friday, August 16, 2013

    Dance with the birds and the music (Blerta) #73 and 74

    Blerta Dance Around The World/ Freedom St. Marys (HMV HR 466,  1972)

    Iconic NZ actor Bruno Lawrence's finest musical moment came on this fantastic slice of NZ rock.

    Blerta was a communal collective of wannabe Merry Pranksters/Hog Farmers. They had a musical bent and released these two great singles. The one above and:

    Blerta Joy Joy/ Rain Song (EMI HR 536,  1975)

    Bruno was the drummer and quasi leader in the collective (Blerta stands for Bruno Lawrence's Electric Revelation and Traveling Apparition) with Geoff Murphy and others performing along side him.

    For a bunch of actors, film makers and musicians they gelled incredibly well on these tracks. Joy Joy zips by on an adrenaline rush and Dance Around The World is a NZ classic. The voice over is a trip in itself.

    Hidden gems: Both B sides have their charm with a jazzy jamming kind of vibe going on, very appropriate given the band's rationale.

    Thursday, August 15, 2013

    You look tired love, let me turn down the light (Cilla Black) #72

    Cilla Black Step Inside Love/ I Couldn't Take My Eyes Off You (Parlophone R 5674,  1968)

    Dear old Cilla. Just goes to show how minimal talent can be parleyed into a lifetime career in entertainment. I bet the Brits call her a national treasure or some such tosh.

    Don't get me wrong - I love the original girl made good idea of Cilla but not the media construct she has been for the last...what..forty or so years, I guess.

    If you said, "Cilla Black" to someone and asked them to name one song - Step Inside Love would be it. Actually I'm struggling to think of another one.

    Lennon and McCartney knew what they were about when they gave this to her. No way were they EVER going to record this themselves. Dear old George Martin produces and it screams hit without any trouble in the quality stakes.

    Hidden gem: Well, no but the B side gives an idea of future directions for our Cilla.


    Friday, August 9, 2013

    Whatcha tryin' a do to my heart? (Pat Benatar) # 71

    Pat Benatar You Better Run/ Out-A-Touch (Chrysalis K 8018,  1980)

    Déjà vu coming around again -'s the eighties, again.

    Pat Benatar is/was a rocker and a roller with a great rock chick name (Patricia Mae Andrzejewski doesn't quite have the same ring so no wonder she ditched it) with a nifty rock 'n' roll attitude. 'Was' because you can't carry all of those things into middle age (she's four years older than me so she's over 60 now). I'm sorry but you can't have the same rock attitude in black leather pants at age 60 that you had as a teenager. The men don't know but Grace Slick understands.

    You Better Run is a classic slice of early eighties rock and does feature the wonderful guitarist Neil Giraldo who has appeared on all of Pat's albums.  It's a cover of The Young Rascals song but Pat makes it her own. It was the second song ever on MTV and was perfectly suited to MTV's raison d'être.

    Hidden gem: The B side is another great rock song. Pat sounds a little like a rock version of Blondie's Deborah Harry on this song and that can't be a bad thing.