Saturday, May 31, 2014

So doggone easy (Buddy Holly) # 194 - 195

Denny Laine It's So Easy/ Listen To Me (medley)/ I'm Looking For Someone To Love (EMI, EMI 2523, 1976)

Denny Laine Moondreams/ Look At Me (EMI, EMI 11433, 1977)

This was pretty much a vanity project for Denny and Paul of Wings in 1976/1977 (Linda also along on backing vocals although you struggle to hear it from the mix).

Macca produces, engineers and he and Denny play everything on these versions of Buddy Holly songs (Macca owns the publishing as well!).

Given all that it's surprisingly light and airy like candyfloss. The only thing going for them is the amateur, less is more, feel.

All of the tracks come off Denny's 'solo' album Holly Days.

Hidden gems: nothing rare or even very interesting on the B sides. I wish I could say otherwise. Why do I own them? I'm a Lennon completist but this kinda thing dissuades me from ever being a McCartney obsessive.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Here I stand with my arms open wide (Billy J. Kramer) #192 - 193

Billy J. Kramer with The Dakotas I'll Keep You Satisfied/ I Know (Parlophone, R 5073, 1963)

Billy J. Kramer with The Dakotas From A Window/ Little Children (EMI, BRIT 12, 1964)

John and Paul never really gave anything great away. Most (all?) of their gifts to people like Peter and Gordon, Cilla, The Fourmost and so on were things they didn't use in The Beatles. They'd moved on apace.

Billy, born William Ashton, had Brian Epstein for a manager, songs written for him by Paul mainly (John's contributed, among other things, the J to Kramer's name), and George Martin as producer. Hits were guaranteed!

These two A sides are very much in the Mersey beat tradition. Today they sound pretty twee, especially McCartney's From A Window, the last song L and M given to Billy. Paul's lyrics are pretty naff too, it has to be said. As I indicated - they weren't about to give away GOOD stuff.

BTW - the From a Window single is a re-release as you can guess from the EMI label and issue number. I'd guess it was part of a re-release programme in the late seventies as I'm pretty sure I picked it up while working at Marbecks during my holidays. 

Hidden gem: sorry - you came to the wrong place. Neither are Lennon/ McCartney songs. The Satisfied video clip does have the wonderful Brian Matthews though - still going strong on the equally wonderful BBC Radio 2.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Give us a sign that we've reached you (Klaatu) #191

Klaatu Calling Occupants/ Sub-Rosa Subway (Capitol, F 4412, 1976)

Klaatu were supposedly The Beatles in disguise in 1976, which was clearly preposterous - given the weak sound on display here.

Calling Occupants isn't so bad a song - Karen Carpenter recognised its potential and did a wonderful cover version that showed up the weaknesses in the original - most notably in the vocals. How anyone could have thought this was the fabs is beyond me. It's a vaguely McCartney-esque song, but sounds nothing like him.

The first Klaatu album had a Beatlesque sound, this coupled with the lack of biographical details offered up by Klaatu, helped inspire a rumour concocted by Providence Journal reviewer Steve Smith in February 1977 that the album might be an anonymous project by the Beatles. Like the Paul Is Dead story, the rumour turned into a global phenomenon with Beatle fans being fed "clues" by radio stations and print media alike.

Yes, I admit it, I was as desperate for new Beatles product as others (Lennon was in hibernation by this point) so I bought the single. It's now become a real oddity for me - a single I bought because it was part of a rumour!

Hidden gem: More of the same on the B side - if anything this one's even more Beatle-esque. Both tracks are on the parent album.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Can you get enough of me (Kiss) #190

Kiss I Was Made For Lovin' You/ Hard Times (Casablanca, NB 983, 1979)

Arr - Kiss! A band bound to polarise the troops. 

I find it interesting that among the male staff at my school (an all girls school so there's only five of us) Kiss is definitely a popular cultural touchstone - particularly with four of us who've considered the fantasy of dressing up as Kiss and miming to this song at school!

Bizarre but true.

If you grew up in the seventies (as the four of us did) there was no avoiding either the band or this song. That meant taking an either pro or anti stance - there was no avoiding it. I didn't like disco and I'm still not a fan but Kiss managed to skirt around that problem at the time. I bought it after all!

It holds up too - that disco-ish sound is just this side of hard rock with Gene Simmons' driving bass sound and Ace Frehley's guitar heroics, although kept largely in check, do add a huge appeal.

Hidden gem: Actually the B side is the equal of the A side but for different reasons. Rather than a quasi disco sound Hard Times is a genuine rock song with a fantastic riff. It's an Ace Frehley song which explains the different, and to my ears - more appealing hard rock edge.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Is my timing that flawed? (Joy Division) #187 - 189

Joy Division Atmosphere/ She's Lost Control (Factory 12", GOOD 39, 1980)

Joy Division Transmission/ Novelty (Factory 12", GOOD 40, 1980)

Joy Division Love Will Tear Us Apart/ These Days; Love Will Tear Us Apart (Factory 12", FAC 23, 1980)

Joy Division must have one of the most distinctive sounds ever!

Hook's melodic bass, Stephen Morris' drums, Sumner's guitar fills, and most important of all - Ian Curtis' vocal style - all make for an utterly distinctive, and compelling, sound.

Of course, Curtis' suicide looms large over these songs - it's impossible for me to come at them without that terrible knowledge. Love Will Tear Us Apart takes on added desperation; Transmission sounds like, well, a transmission from beyond, Ian having broken on through to the other side; and Atmospheremaybe the pick of the bunch, is just plain spooky now. 

This is amazing music. Like listening to blues legends like Howlin' Wolf and Muddy Waters - misery provides rich rewards for the listener in all three A sides.

Hidden gems: no problem here. Novelty is a wonderful song that's propelled forward by Morris' drums, as is These Days with it's archetypal JD sound and She's Lost Control sounds like an A side even now.

Friday, May 16, 2014

This is the hour when the mysteries emerge (Joy Division) #186

Joy Division Komakino/ Incubation; As You Said (Factory flexi 7", FAC 28, 1980)

This was a single released in June 1980 as a 7" flexi disc limited to 10,000 copies (amounts vary according to various sources) and given away free in selected record shops. I can't remember how I came by it.

Being a fexi it's kind of a pain. I guess they were trying to make a 'statement' - I don't know - the disposability of a pop song maybe. Whatever - flexis have a very limited playing life. 

Apparently these tracks are from the Britannia Row Studios session for Closer, March 18-30, 1980 that didn't end up on the album. Not hard to see why really.

Hidden gems: The B side consists of two instrumentals. Maybe a couple of songs that Ian Curtis couldn't put lyrics to? I'm not sure. Nothing special going on really. Hooky plays some nice bass runs on Incubation but it's a bit average as an instrumental. As You Said is some spacey noodling from Manchester's finest. New Orderish actually!

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Climb in the back with your head in the clouds and you're gone (The Beatles) #184 - 185

Elton John Lucy In The Sky (With Diamonds)/ One Day At A Time (DJM records, K5766, 1974)

The Elton John Band Philadelphia Freedom/ I Saw Her Standing There (DJM records, K5828, 1975)

John Lennon and Elton had a productive time in 1974. Elton appears on Walls And Bridges and JL appears on Elton's 1974 version of Lucy In The Sky. JL plays guitar and provides backing vocals.

I know I sound like a stuck record but The Beatles' original versions take a power of beating. Trying to cover something off Sgt Pepper is at best brave and at worst insane. Elton was in his cocaine addled period at the time, which may help explain his decision. Unlike his take on The 'Oos Pinball Wizard, nothing much is added to the original but it's not offensive. And bloody Lennon's on it so get over yerself!

Hidden gems: The real good stuff is on the B side of course. One Day At A Time is Elton's cover of a Lennon song from his Mind Games album. Agreed - I'm a huge John Ono Lennon fan, but I really love his version of this song. Elton's version is fine though and again Lennon appears on guitar so it has an extra resonance for Beatle/Lennon obsessives like me.

The version of I saw Her Standing There is the rollicking version by Lennon and Elton at the famous 1974 gig at Madison Square Garden. More of this concert is to come when we get to the Lennon singles.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

You're a bluebird on the telegraph line (Elton John/ Bernie Taupin) #183

Elton John Funeral For A Friend; Love Lies Bleeding/ We All Fall In Love Sometimes; Curtains (DJM records 12", X  13063, 1975)

Another weird combination here with two tracks from Goodbye Yellow Brick Road paired with two tracks from Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy.

Funeral and Love Lies Bleeding segue together seemlessly. I always associate these two songs together so I was immediately a sucker for this piece of DJM Records product (I had to get past the giant Disco label on the 12").

Somehow the sound on the 12" is IMMENSE - Elton's piano is LoUd, the superb backing vocals are crystal clear in the mix, Nigel Olsson's drums fill the room and those Davey Johnson guitar runs are HUGE (his finest hour). This one is guaranteed to get me up and air guitaring my brains out.

Hidden gems: The softer side of Elton is on display on the B side but he doesn't half go on sometimes. Curtains needed to be drawn way earlier in proceedings (ho ho ho) and We All Fall etc is an okay song but a good reason why I never bought Captain Fantastic - another day at the brick factory for Bernie and Elton, I'm sorry to say. 

But play that A side again...REALLY LOUD!!!!!

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Chimney sweep sparrow with guise (John Fred and His Playboy Band) #182

John Fred and His Playboy Band Judy In Disguise/ When The Lights Go Out (Festival, FK 2106, 1967)

John Fred Gourrier (May 8, 1941 – April 14, 2005), known by the stage name John Fred, and his Playboy Band became a one hit wonder with this song but he and the band started in 1956 when he was only 15. He continued playing and releasing albums until his death in 2005, his last album being released in 2002.

He'll forever be associated with this whimsical song that was clearly inspired by The Beatles' Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds.

Apparently John Lennon loved the song: John Fred: "When I met John Lennon, that's the first thing he asked me. He thought it was great. He said the first thing he was going to do when he got home was write a song called 'Froggy in a Pond with Spectacles.'"

Hmmm - JL may have been yanking JF's chain there but I'm sure he saw the humour in the good natured parody.

Hidden gem: The B side is a piece of undistinguished blue-eyed soul, light years away from the brilliance of the A side. 

Friday, May 2, 2014

I couldn't love you any better (Billy Joel) #181

Billy Joel Just The Way You Are/ Get It Right The First Time (CBS, BA 461796, 1977)

I bought this for my mum at the time because she loved the song when she heard it on the radio. It's easy on the ears, that's for sure.

Billy Joel had me right from Piano Man - the song and the album, but he was kind of a guilty pleasure by 1977. My mates didn't like him much, which is a factor when you're at an all boys school and the Stones rool. The sentimentality oozing from Just The Way You Are had by 1977 replaced the cutting edge of Captain Jack - which me and my mates loved from Billy's second album.

Truth be told - that Piano Man album had also contained the wonderful You're My Home which indicated early on that Billy could write superb melodies with affecting lyrics.

I bought the parent album The Stranger for my mother in 1977 as well. Both it and this single stayed in my father's possession until he passed away in 2009. Now I have them in mine - safe and sound.

Hidden gem: The B side shows Billy's rockier edge which by 1977 had become quite slick. Billy had earlier spat the dummy when radio stations prompted music biz types to edit Piano Man (The Entertainer's lyrics reveal his disappointment with the music industry - "If you're gonna have a hit, you gotta make it fit, so they cut it down to 3:05") but Get It Right The First Time at 3.54 showed that he'd learned his lessons. He's got it right the second time as GIRTFT is pretty much a conformist rock song.