Friday, 26 October 2012

Kit Russell - Pepper's Last Stand (1973)

Every year for my best pal Joe's birthday, I make him a mix cd.  We've been friends for donkeys years and share a very similar taste in music. We meet up, at the Junipers' studio at least once a week and in between rehearsing/jamming/laughing with the other lads, we'll chat about our latest musical discoveries. Well, I had to keep quiet about this one for a good six months, not wanting to spoil the surprise for his birthday mix. July came and I got give him his present and he loved it, natch! We're both amazed that this one has slipped under the radar for so long.

Kit Russell was actually Charles Gilesnan (never heard of him either!) and had put out another excellent and unknown/uncomped single under the name Charlie on the tiny Bumble record label in 1972. "Dream Hero" is a nice, floating, orchestrated pop tune sort of like a laid back Gilbert O'Sullivan. The Kit Russell single, released on Deram in August 1973 is Charles' nugget though. "Pepper's Last Stand" is a genuine killer with it's Moog synth intro, Abbey Road drums and Beatles references in the lyrics. When the word gets out about this one, I can see it selling for bison dollar on ebay.  I'm just glad I got my own copy. On the down side, "Shuffle Back", the B-side, is a steaming pile of poo.

Pepper's Last Stand - Lyrics

I'm writing a sad song
It don't seem to last long
Lasting one minute it seems
If it were a fast song
It'll last even less long
I guess I'll just write about dreams

I'll write about Snoopy
Or maybe about Lucy
The girl with the tangerine eyes
They've sung her before
Perhaps they may want more
Of acid and diamonds in skies

Listening to Beatles I'm much better off without songs that I write about me
Sometimes when Paul sings I'm dreaming of something like wearing my own M.B.E.

And when I have ended
with no one offended
I'll listen to some other boys
Like Simon, Garfunkel or Melanie's uncle
Then tune in and turn off the noise

I've got a sentence that rhymes
And when I have spoke it
I know someone wrote it before
But I hope they won't mind

Listening to Beatles I'm much better off without songs that I write about me
Sometimes when Paul sings I'm dreaming of something like wearing my own M.B.E.

And when I have ended
with no one offended
I'll listen to some other boys
Like Simon, Garfunkel or Melanie's uncle
Then tune in and turn off the noise
Then tune in and turn off the noise
Then tune in and turn off the noise

Friday, 19 October 2012

Bite It Deep Volume 6 (Mixcloud)

Volume 6

Chas Mills And Mark Wirtz - What's Good For The Goose
The Jackpots - Jack In The Box
Omnibus - Somebody's Watching You
David Explosion - Mister Hardy
The Searchers - Desdemona
Bloom - Don't Break This Heart
Second Hand - Good Old '59
Music Motor - Where Am I Going
The Majority - Our Love Will Be So Strong
John Kongos - Flim, Flam Pharisee
Kajanus & Pickett - Flying Machine
Keith West - Wherever My Love Goes
Sleepy Hollow - I Surrender
Stained Glass - Mediocre Me
Wolfe - Tale Of Two Cities
Barnaby Bye - The Way

Friday, 12 October 2012

Liverpool Echo - S/T (1973)

In the early 1970's the Beatles influence was present in the sound of many popular bands.  Smyle, We All Together, The Tremeloes, Stackridge, Emitt Rhodes etc, all made great records with obvious nods to the Fab Four but one band that really stand out are The Liverpool Echo, a band whose one and only LP, on Spark records sounds more like a tribute to the Beatles rather than a Beatles influenced album. But where as the mentioned bands' Beatles sound are like continuations from Abbey Road or Let It Be, Liverpool Echo looked towards their more energetic and live sound Please Please Me and the Merseybeat era  for inspiration. Rockin' Horse had tried a similar act a few years earlier in 1970 but failed to grab the public's attention. So, in 1973 were the music buyers finally ready for the Beatlesque, Liverpool Echo? No! And so we are left with another lost classic, an under appreciated pop nugget, a perfect entry for this blog!

The roots of Liverpool Echo can be traced back to East London, UK where school friends Martin Briley and Brian Engel formed the psychedelic quintet, the Mandrake Paddle Steamer with the help of Martin Hooker (organ), Paul Riordan (bass, vocals) and Barry Nightingale (drums). Two heavy psych singles were released on Parlophone during 1969:  "Strange Walking Man" b/w "Steam" and "Sunlight Glide" b/w "Len" (a Sweden only single). A regular gigging band, playing with the likes of The Who, Pink Floyd, Deep Purple to name a few lasted until 1970 when Briley ran out of steam and left the band to become a graphic designer.

Mandrake Paddle Steamer
Brian Engel continued writing musical scores, attracting the attention of George Martin who suggested him to bring back old band mate Briley to provide some lyrics. The duo recorded an albums worth of originals material at Martin's AIR studios, which remained unreleased until recent years aside from the singles: "East of the Sun, West of the Moon" b/w "Jaywick Cowboy" as Corn & Seed Merchants and the excellent "Pale Green (hmmmm) Driving Man" again b/w "Jaywick Cowboy" under the name Prowler. The songs from these sessions were eventually released by RPM records in 2007 as "Between the Sky and the Sea" by Briley & Engel.

Following the AIR sessions Briley and Engel made friends with Andrew Pryce Jackman (ex-The Syn) who was conducting orchestras at the time and the three of them came up with the idea to record an album of "proper songs".  The new band name, Liverpool Echo, was also the name of a newspaper and was a concious link to the Beatles, even the album sleeve is a front page article from 1963 of a Beatles news story. They employed the now legendary session musicians Clem Cattini (drums) and Herbie Flowers (bass) for the recording sessions which also included Jackman on keys and production duties and Briley and Engel sharing guitar and vocals. The recording sessions were quick with most tracks captured on the first or second take. The simplicity and rawness of the songs is a perfect antidote to the overgrown, seriousness of the Prog Rock of the time, much like the emerging Pub Rock scene.

Briley & Engel
The album was released in 1973 by Spark Records who unsurprisingly had no idea how to market the band and many believe that the few copies that were sold were probably people thinking they were buying a Beatles album.  The band we're paid £25 for their efforts and the records sunk into obscurity.  The failure of the records success prevented  Briley and Engel from turning Liverpool Echo into a live gigging band and it's legacy remains only on vinyl grooves.

The duo continued to write together for a short while, putting out the odd singles as True Adventure, Starbuck and Slick Willie (check out "Side Walk Surfing Skate Boarding" Birthday-esque?) and eventually drifted apart. Brian Engel went on to form country rockers, Limey and then Joined the New Seekers.  Martin Briley had a succesful solo career in the 1980's and now works  for Paul McCartney's MPL Communications Organisation and has written songs for N'SYNC, Celine Dion and Michael Bolton to name a few.

Mr Blue Sky - The Story of Jeff Lynne and ELO

Last Friday BBC4 played Mr Blue Sky - The Story of Jeff Lynne and ELO and what an ace documentary it was. Lynne came across as a humble, down to earth decent kind of bloke, just as you'd expect. Great old clips and new interviews with Macca, Ringo and Tom Petty. Check it out on the BBC iPlayer while you can here.

The Electric Light Orchestra are my Dad's all time fave band and were the soundtrack to many a car journey while growing up.  I heard Jeff Lynne's new album "Long Wave" yesterday and it's pretty good. 

I wonder if the BBC are planning a documentary on Roy Wood? The radio doc, Record Producers - Roy Wood (2 hour long extended cut) is well worth tracking down. Originally aired on 6Music a couple of years ago and was a real treat. I'm sure it can be downloaded somewhere on the net.

Here's Jeff & Roy together in the Move in 1972 with a killer studio performance of "California Man".  I can watch this over and over...

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Greg Shaw on Powerpop (Bomp magazine - Feb 1978)

I've never been able to explain what Power Pop is.  I've always found it hard to describe the one of my favourite genres of music, instead I'd just play "No Matter What" by Badfinger or "See The Light" by The Flame and say "That's Power Pop!"  Well, I was reading the Bomp: Saving The World One Record At A Time book the other week and Greg Shaw explains it a million times better than I could ever dream of, tracing it's history via Mod in the UK and Garage Punk in the US and heaping the praise on one of the ultimate bands of the genre, the Raspberries.

Originally printed in Bomp magazine, February 1978, take it away Greg...

Powerpop Past

Powerpop (or Mod-rock as it was once called) thus began with the Who and was in fact pretty much a British phenomenon all the way.  Australia was a strong outpost with the Easybeats, Masters Apprentices and others, and with the Tages in Sweden, the Wizards in Norway etc, it had it's exponents everywhere. But as a movement we need look no further than London's West End for the core.

Most youths of 64-65 had a sound we'd call more-or-less Powerpop. The Small Faces, Eyes, Sorrows, even the Troggs and somewhat later, when Mod emerged for a magical moment with flower power, a second peak period that gave us the Smoke, Jason Crest, Wimple Winch, the Attack, the Syn, the Move, the Idle Race, Johns Children, the Herd and the band that has become one of the legendary names, Creation. Another Shel Talmy production, they had only a few first rate songs, but those were the epitome of Powerpop.

In America, without the social force of youth culture behind it, Mod music was heard out of context and never much of an influence except among those dedicated bands who read the British papers and longed to be Mods themselves (not unlike American punk fans today - Mod was after all the social and cultural equivalent of the current punk scene, if we care to draw that parallel ). The American reaction to British rock was first-wave punk rock, a style better suited to conditions here, although a number of would-be Mod bands came in with a punk scene. Groups like the Litter, the Ugly Ducklings, the British Modbeats, the Choir, the Clefs of Lavender Hill, Chessman Square and to promote Mod aesthetic in their mostly Midwestern locales, but since none managed to bring home a national hit record, they were lost in the ongoing mayhem of the times.

By the late 60's, the pop climate that supported Mod had disintegrated. Powerful guitar music  was confined to hard rock and both the trend-setting audiences and the musicians they produced lost all respect for pop as a result of the 'underground' movement. The result was that pop and rock went their separate ways. This divorce was doubly tragic: rock lost it's magic and pop lost the force of youth culture that had made it exciting. Pop music was now a studio product; at its best, with American bubblegum (Tommy James, et al) and British art-pop (Flowerpot Men, etc) it was marvelous stuff that the fans weaned on mid-60's mania often preferred to the formless, excessive rock that was the alternative. But the bands behind these records rarely even existed outside the studio and in most cases it was producers who proved the creative force, with musicians existing in its own artistic vacuum. Teen anthems were out of the question.

It's singularly important, in attempting to follow the thread of Powerpop over the years, that we clearly distinguish it from its closely related form, pop-rock. Pop-rock goes back to the Zombies, Hollies, Searchers, etc and while these groups often ventured into hard rock, the foundation is pure pop and the sphere of pop-rock encompasses all varieties of soft rock stretching back to the blandest inanities of Gilbert O'Sullivan or Hamilton, Joe Frank etc.

Since pop-rock is by nature commercial, it's always been around and in the hands of this or that exceptional group, sometimes approached the splendor of Powerpop. There was a period in the early 70's when so many musicians turned against the vapidity of mainstream rock that it seemed a kind of spontaneous Pop Revival was taking place. We had a wealth of records that were, if not Powerpop, the certainly powerful pop-rock: "Do Ya", "Tonight", "Chinatown" by the Move, "Baby Blue" and others by Badfinger, "Love is in Motion" and "Darling" by Stories,  "Rendezvous" by the Hudson Brothers, "September Gurls" by Big Star, "Long Cool Woman" by the Hollies, "Good Grief Christina" by Chicory Tip, "Tennessee Woman" by the Nashville Teens, "Some Sing, Some Dance" by Pagliaro, "Orbit" by Thundermug, "Natural Man", by Marcus Hook, records by Blue Ash, Circus, Pony, Vance Or Towers and dozens more.  All of them great, some classic hard-rocking pop records.

The only problem was these records either became hits and sold to the AM radio masses, or more often they stiffed and were never heard. The groups themselves rarely had local audience support and the worldwide cult audience wasn't yet sufficiently organized to give them foundation and inpsiration for continued effort.

Powerpop Supreme

The one Pop Revival band that could really have done it was the Raspberries. What a perfect band! Their roots went back to bands like the Choir and Cyrus Erie who'd been championing mod music since 1965.

Their first four records were smash teen hits, entrenching the Raspberries in AM radio and the teen mags. They were beloved by the press and the cult rock audience of the time, even if neither of these factions was then potent enough to give more than encouragement. Most of all, they made the best damn records I'd heard since 1967.

The Raspberries were the essence of Powerpop, more than the Who or any of their prototypes. On their best records, every nuance, every tiny bit was flawlessly designed to create an overall impact that's never been matched. The reason: Eric Carmen had studies and distilled into the group everything that was great in his personal idols, not just the Who but the Beatles, Lesley Gore, the Beach Boys, Tommy James and more. Records Like "Go All The Way", "Tonight", "Ecstacy", "I Wanna Be With You" and "Let's Pretend" illustrate the Powerpop ideal: pop beyond question, dealing with themes of innocence and teenage romance, without schmaltz, with the power of pure rock & roll giving force to the emotions being conveyed. All the dreams and frustrations and urgent desires of teenage emotion are captured in those records as never before or since.

Whatever the reasons they didn't, if the Raspberries had become phenomenally big, who's to say what might've followed in their wake. They represented a growing movement that needed only a catalyst to take off. In Cleveland and other Midwestern cities, whole echelons of similarly-minded bands were working the club circuits, many issuing private records in anticipation of the New Wave, with the support of local press and radio. The possibilities of Cleveland as a "New Liverpool" were, for a time, very real.

The spirit of Powerpop lived in the Pop Revival and was exalted in the music of the Raspberries. Meanwhile, back in England where its genesis lay, it had taken different shape in the Glitter trend. Suffice to say that the form and a great deal of the sound by which we identify Powerpop were successfully recreated in the laboratories of producers like Chinn & Chapman, Phil Wainman, Mickie Most and with a more than implicit nod to Mod (Bowie's Pinups) along with the refreshing outburst of teen mania that accompanied the doings of all these acts,  the exposion of records and teen magazines and all the rest, it looked on the surface that it was "all coming back" at last.

There were two things wrong, however. First , America was having none of it. Too many damaged brains still preferred boogie bludgeoning to pop power, and the pop spirit of the time was grafted onto the same old music with the glittery costumes of Edgar Winter et al. Most of the best glitter bands stiffed completely in the US and this fact proved fatal to the movement. Equally fatal was the fact that this music, still, belonged to the producers and and string-pullers. It was no real movement at all, but an artificially created trend exactly analogous to the Kasanetz-Katz era of bubblegum. The musicians had no roots in their audience and the audience itself had no identity or pop culture of its own from which to produce musicians. Glitter fashion consisted of elaborate, expensive stage costumes. Nothing a kid could improvise or create.

The thrust of glitter was in the right direction and most of the records, as pieces of plastic, stand on their own, but without the connection to a healthy pop culture, it wasn't Powerpop in the sense we aspire to.

Excerpt taken from Bomp: Saving The World One Record At A Time by Suzy Shaw and Mick Farren. Available to buy here.

Monday, 1 October 2012

Telltale - Rainbow (1973)

Telltale were the house band for 70's & 80's children's television show Rainbow.  The show, my favourite as a kid, was based around a camp bear called Bungle, a pink, gay hippo called George and Zippy, a loud mouthed, anarchistic baked bean/rugby ball/snake?  The three of them lived (and slept!) together in a multicoloured house and were looked after by Geoffrey, an all round nice bloke who took all sorts of shit from them but always kept his cool.  Each episode featured a song by Telltale and in 1973 an LP was released on the budget record label, Music For Pleasure, produced by Anton Kwiatkowski and included fourteen original songs in a light folk pop, nursery rhyme style.

The album has its fair share of cool tracks. "Up and Down" sounds a bit like Tranquility with its laid back piano and killer harmonies. "Autumn's Really Here" is prime seventies folk on par with anything Fairport Convention were putting out at the time.  The real killer though is "Rainbow", the shows theme tune.  We only got to hear the first verse of the song as the show's opening credits but the album and single version also released in 1973 lets us hear the song in full and what a treat it is.  I first played it to my mates in The Junipers on a mix cd I'd made for a journey to a gig.  They all loved it and kept hitting the back button for repeated listens.  I think we even made an attempt at playing it the studio once too!

Telltale performing "Shapes" on Rainbow in 1972
Here's a bit about Telltale from the album liner notes.

The idea for Telltale began while Tim Thomas and Hugh Portnow were working for the Freehold Theatre Company. Tim moved on in 1970 to concentrate on forming a group of first class musicians and actors and Hugh joined him a year later. With the arrival on the scene of Hugh Fraser, Chris Ashley and Fluff Joinson, Telltale was fast becoming a reality and it became complete with the addition of Ted Richards

(Fraser, Portnow, Thomas)

Up above the streets and houses
Rainbow climbing high
Everyone can see it smiling over the sky
Paint the whole world with a Rainbow

All along the the streams and rivers
shining in the lakes
See the colours of the Rainbow as the morning breaks
Paint the whole world with a Rainbow

Red, the colour of a sunrise
White clouds floating in a sky of blue
Green for the rivers
Gold for the cornfields
The day is shining new

Red, the colour of a sunset
Grey shadows creep across the hills
The sun is sinking, colours are fading
The fields are dark and still

Take some green from a forest
Blue from the sea
Find the misty pot of gold
And mix them for a week
Paint the whole world with a Rainbow