Thursday, January 30, 2014

I'm driving in my car, I turn on the radio I'm pulling you close, you just say no (Bruce Springsteen) #120

Robert Gordon Fire/ Sea Cruise (Private Stock, PVT 54, 1978)

Springsteen wrote Fire with Elvis Presley in mind (apparently he sent The King a demo at about the time he died) and didn't include the song (for obvious stylistic reasons) on his Darkness On The Edge Of Town album.

Instead he gave it to Robert Gordon who knew a smouldering hit when he heard it (the most commercially successful version belongs to The Pointer Sisters which is also from 1978).

Of all the versions (including The Boss') I prefer Gordon's. The rockabilly pout is perfect for the song - you can easily imagine what Elvis would have done with it. 

Chris Isaak has made a career with this sort of thing but R.G. is the realer deal for me, although I own way more Isaak albums than I do R.G.'s. Mainly because his influences are more solidly gritty early rock'n'roll icons like Gene Vincent and Eddie Cochrane as well as Elvis.

Springsteen, btw, appears on this version - playing keyboards of all things.

Hidden gem: Sea Cruise is a great rock'n'roll song written by pianist Huey "Piano" Smith. The first version of the song was released in 1959 but it's been covered by a huge number of people that range from Status Quo to The Beach Boys. Of course it's great material for bands like Sha Na Na and Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen.

This version is a great driving rockabilly version with legendary guitarist Link Wray again along for the ride.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

I'm feelin' blue, wish I knew how you do it to me but I haven't a clue (Gerry and The Pacemakers) #119

Gerry And The Pacemakers How Do You Do It?/ Away From You (Columbia, DNZ 10292, 1963)

The song that George Martin famously told the Beatles was a guaranteed #1 but they turned him down - they didn't think it fitted them (a glance at all those rhymes in the title helps explain why). Instead Martin produced this version by Gerry and his band and, yep, it went to number 1!

Amazing that this song, their first single, sets out the stall so completely for Gerry Marsden and crew. The cheeky chappy bouncy persona is set from the off with both the distinctive Gerry lilt and the Pacemaker beat firmly in place.

Gerry and co were rivals of the Beatles in the very early days but couldn't hack the pace as Lennon/McCartney continued to innovate and while Gerry subsequently had further hits he couldn't replicate the creative trails that the fabs blazed. Sadly the band was as sexy as a bag of salt and vinegar crisps and there was always the distinctly unhip band name to contend with as well.

Hidden gem: The B side is also a snappy little pop song, a little rhythmic gem like Besame Mucho - written by Gerry and bass player Les Chadwick. Unfortunately those rhymes again cause some queasy moments - you/blue/knew, side/cried - eek!

Friday, January 24, 2014

And when the night is cloudy, there is still a light that shines on me (The Beatles) #118

Aretha Franklin Let It Be/ Don't Play That Song (Atlantic, AK 3851, 1970)

Aretha's version was actually released before the Beatles one (in January 1970) but as great as Aretha is, her version is inevitably eclipsed by the fabs.

On paper she should do the business right? Her gospel voice perfectly which suits the content, her fantastic vocal style, Tom Dowd, Arif Mardin and Jerry Wexler are all on board.

The fabs on the other hand were in comparative disarray. The 1969 Get Back sessions are of legend: Macca telling George what to play, Yoko on board, George Martin not, John distracted, Ringo bored shitless.

And yet, and yet - on the album version in particular, The Beatles kick ass!!

Hidden gem: Aretha performs with the Dixie Flyers for the B side. For me it's the better side with a sympathetic backing, some nice gospel piano and Aretha in fine voice. It's a good song and a lovely B side.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Lord, we don't need another mountain (Bacharach/David) #117

Tom Clay 1 What The World Needs Now Is Love 2 Abraham Martin And John /The Four Tops Reach Out I'll Be there (Motown, Gold 51, ?) 

I think this piece of cynical Motown product came out in the late eighties, after The Four Tops had returned to Motown. Someone in the marketing department at EMI had a thought and here we are.

It's a weird combo - DJ Tom Clay's 1971 creation is paired with the sublime Levi Stubbs lead vocal from 1966. Go figure.

I remembered hearing the Clay song in the early seventies on the radio - must have been - there was no music TV, interweb, social media aside my friends at Mt Albert Grammar lending me stuff, so - must have been the radio.

As you know I'm a sentimental old fluff and growing up I was obsessed with American culture. I loved the Kennedys and Martin Luther King so this 'song' left a deep impression.

Of course MLK's dream speech creates goosebumps still and I love Edward Kennedy's eulogy that's included here along with the real time sounds of the assassinations.

The use of the Bacharach/David song is inspired. For years growing up I thought it was about the events. I interpreted the mountain in the title metaphorically for many years.

There is a really wistful melancholy aspect to the music that seemed perfect - still does.

Hidden gem: The official B side is the Four Tops song but I have the single filed in the F's because how can this song be side 2?? Impossible. Levi Stubbs is immortal and this Holland Dozier Holland song is a classic. 

The Four Tops are easily my favourite Motowners - as big as Hendrix, Sonny Terry/Brownie McGhee, Miles, Coltrane and Chuck Berry as far as I'm concerned.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Girl, you make me lose my mind (The Four Seasons) #116

The Four Seasons Sherry/ I've Cried Before (Allied International, JAR 453, 1962)

I have a very good memory about my record buying experiences. Even now, if you pull something out of my collection, I can tell you about its circumstances - where I was and where the record came from. 


Except this is one of those rare ones - I have no idea where I got this from, when I got it, or indeed WHY I bought it, if I did. I suspect I got it from a record swap many years ago but why I didn't get rid of it years ago in one of my purges I have no idea.

I don't like the band much, I don't like Frankie Vallie's vocal style much and I own nothing else by them. 

It's a dumb song - apparently it took 15 minutes to write and I can believe it. It was the group's first big hit - going to #1 for quite a few weeks in 1962. 

It was a big deal at the time so yeah. There you go - Sherry - #116 in my singles collection.

Hidden gem: The B side was also written by Bob Gaudio - the band's keyboard player. It's one of those schmaltzy ballads that were popular at the time. The sort of thing you want to have a shower after hearing to rinse the gloppy cheese off. Icky.

I can't sing, I ain't pretty and my legs are thin (Fleetwood Mac) #115

Fleetwood Mac Oh Well Pt. 1/ Oh Well Pt. 2 (Reprise, RO 27000, 1969)

An unusual single this one for Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac. It was deliberately written by Green as a two part song/single - the album version came later (for their Then Play On album) and simply edited the two parts together.

Part one is the knock out wailing electric blues guitar/ cowbell part and the flip side is the meditative instrumental coda (Eric Clapton was certainly paying attention - Layla uses the same conceit).

I couldn't believe how insanely good this song was when I finally caught up with it in the late seventies. 

The guitar work by Peter Green and the weird structure of the song are entirely original. It's inspired playing from everyone concerned and a real peak for the band.

Hidden gem: The second part is continued from the A side and is like music from another planet. As wildly abandoned as the guitar is on part 1, part 2 is controlled and contemplative. It's deeply evocative of Peter Green's feel for the music that comes from a softer world. Again - it's utterly original. 

Monday, January 6, 2014

Won't you come out to play? (The Beatles) #114

The 5 Stairsteps and Cubie O-o-h Child/ Dear Prudence (Buddha, 2011018, 1970)

The Five Stairsteps (the five and 5 are both used it seems) was a family group from Chicago that included a 6th sibling - Cubie, for this hit song. Unlike the Jacksons, The Stairsteps was a co-ed group.

Originally the B side Beatles cover was the A side but it was flipped when the A side became more popular. The song is ranked #402 on the Rolling Stone magazine's list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

[BTW the Beatle link continued later in their career when the band re branded as The Stairsteps signed with George Harrison's Dark Horse label].

Obviously I was ignorant of all of this when I bought the single from a funny little electrical shop in Greenlane, Auckland. It's long gone but it was a great shop as the old bloke there had heaps of single but no idea about pricing - I got a lot of singles there!

Hidden gem: The draw card for me was obviously the B side. It's a pretty good version too. I'm normally not a fan of Beatle covers but this one sticks reasonably close musically but with a different vocal arrangement so it's fresh and soulful.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Darling, where is your heart (Felicia Sanders) #113

Percy Faith and His Orchestra 1The Song From Moulin Rouge (Where is your heart) 2 Swedish Rhapsody/ 1 Delicado 2 Invitation (Coronet, KEP 146 1953)

Ahem...yes this item exists in my collection and so it merits a place on the countdown but you know this comes from my late father's collection right?

I don't know why he had it. He was a jazz fan (Big Band and Diana Krall style stuff) but he did have a soft spot for this kind of 'easy listening' schmaltz. Still - he only ever had a few singles in his collection so he must have liked this enough to buy it. The A side is certainly well worn so it has had a lot of play, although I never remember hearing it being played when I was growing up.

He may have bought it from Lewis Eady where my future mother worked. It came out in 1953 - dad had just graduated as a pharmacist and he began his career by working at a chemist shop in Queen Street. He would visit Lewis Eady's to buy records and bother Dulcie Adsett - the young record department manager.

Maybe he bought it to try to impress her? Those romantic sweeping strings?

Whatever. It's truly awful stuff to my ears - those strings make me really queasy.  

Hidden gem: actually the B side tracks are marginally better. Delicado was another big hit for Percy. Dad obviously didn't play the B side much though as it's in a much better condition.