Thursday, April 24, 2014

Bang Records: Shilo

When Neil Diamond had recorded, “Just for You,” his second and final album for Bang Records in 1967, he urged Bert Berns to release one of his new recordings, “Shilo,” as a single from the LP. Preferring to issue more pop oriented songs as singles, Berns refused even though Diamond persisted because he felt that “Shilo” epitomized his growth as a songwriter.

“Just for You” contained two tracks that also appeared on Diamond’s first album “The Feel of Neil Diamond.” Both cuts, “Solitary Man” and “Cherry Cherry,” had been released also as singles in 1966. No doubt their inclusion on the new album was a ploy to boost sales of “Just for You.”

“Just for You” is an uncanny LP, as all eleven tracks ended up being an “A” or “B” side of a Bang single.

The single releases from “Just for You” included the following:
  • B-519 “Solitary Man”/”Do It” – April 1966 #55
  • B-528 “Cherry Cherry”/”I’ll Come Running” – July 1966 #6
  • B-536 “I Got the Feelin’ (Oh No No)”/”The Boat that I Row” – October 1966 #16
  • B-540 “You Got to Me”/”Someday Baby” – January 1967 #18
  • B-542 “Girl, You’ll Be a Woman Soon”/”You’ll Forget” – March 1967 #10
  • B-547 “Thank the Lord for the Night Time”/”Long Way from Home” – July 1967 #13
  • B-556 “Red Red Wine”/”Red Rubber Ball” – March 1968 #62
  • B-561 “Shilo”/”La Bamba” – September 1968 – did not chart
  • B-575 “Shilo”/”La Bamba” – January 1970 #24
  • B-578 “Solitary Man”/”The Time is Now” – July 1970 #21
  • B-586 “I’m A Believer”/”Crooked Street” – June 1971 #51
  • B-703 “The Long Way Home”/”Monday Monday” – June 1973 #91
In addition to these, three other Diamond tunes were culled for single releases during this same period:
  • B-551 “Kentucky Woman”/”The Time is Now” (non album single) – October 1967 #62
  • B-554 “New Orleans”/”Hanky Panky” (from the first LP) – January 1968 #51
  • B-580 “Do It”/”Hanky Panky” (from the first LP) – October 1970 #36

Shilo – Version One (September 1968)

While “Shilo” eventually was released as a single, it was after Bert Berns’ death. Issued in September 1968 after Diamond had moved over to Uni Records, “Shilo” was as Berns had predicted.

In 1968, the world was not ready for the more esoteric Diamond tune about an imaginary friend; consequently, it was his only Bang single that never made it into the Hot 100. “Shilo” was produced by Diamonds Brill Building songwriting friend Jeff Barry.

Shilo – Version Two (January 1970)

When Uni had success with two Top 10 Diamond singles in 1969 (“Sweet Caroline” and “Holly Holy”), Bang reached back into the vaults and rerecorded the backing tracks to match Diamond’s current style.

This time Bang had a hit with the remixed version of “Shilo.” It charted at #24 in 1970. Although it is also in the original version, listen for the toy piano in this release of “Shilo.” A perfect addition for a song about an imaginary childhood friend. Everybody had one - my friend’s name was unusual as well - it was “Corn.”

Bang repacked the material and added the new version of “Shilo” and released a new compilation with the hit single as its title track. The new version was produced by Jeff Barry and his wife Ellie Greenwich - both Brill Building regulars.

Shilo – Version Three (October 1970)

With “Shilo” doing fairly well for Bang, Uni felt that it couldn’t be outdone and Diamond reentered the studio and re-recorded “Shilo.” This third version was then added to a re-release of Diamond’s 1968 Uni LP “Velvet Gloves and Spit.”

For this album release, Uni issued the album with a new cover that prominently announced that “Shilo” was on this particular LP. In my opinion, the Uni version has the superior mix. Additionally, another 70s version of “Shilo” appeared on Diamond’s 1972 live album “Hot August Night.”

These three studio versions of “Shilo” provide our Thursday Repeats and Threepeats selection along with our fourth week feature of Bang Records.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Bang Records: Ride 'Em Cowboy

Day two of our look at Bang Records takes us back to 1974 when singer-songwriter Paul Davis had his first Top 40 hit. “Ride ‘Em Cowboy” was one of two Davis’ singles that charted on the pop, adult contemporary, and country charts. While it peaked at #23 on the Hot 100, its biggest success came on the A/C side where it charted at #4. While the song had a country flavor, it was not ready for prime time in that particular genre as “Ride ‘Em Cowboy” only made it to #47 as a country 45.

Although signed to Bang in 1970, it took Davis four years to have his first bonafide hit record. It would be three more years before Davis would have is first Top 10 hit with “I Go Crazy.” Davis has the distinction of being the last artist to record for Bang with his self-titled LP and the singles “Do Right” and “Cry Just a Little.” Yesterday was the sixth anniversary of his death from a heart attack.

“Ride ‘Em Cowboy” was also the name of Davis’ third album which was unique in a number of ways. First of all, it was manufactured in the shape of a denim jacket. Secondly, while the single failed to make a large dent on the country singles chart, it was Davis’ only album to chart on the country album chart where it peaked at #19.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Bang Records: I Want Candy

We are getting a late start this week on our fourth week label feature, but it is better late than never. In 1965, some principals from Atlantic Records set out on a mission to create another record label – Bang Records. Its name was an acronym of the first name initials of Bert Berns, Ahmet Ertegün, Nesuhi Ertegün, and Gerald (Jerry) Wexler.

In similar fashion, a corresponding music publishing company, Web IV, music was an acronym of their last names of Wexler, Ertegün, and Berns. The IV was added as there were four original partners. The label was initially distributed by Atlantic, but you would never know this from the label, as distribution appeared to be credited to Web IV Music whose offices were located in the famous Brill Building and not at the Atlantic Records complex at 1841 Broadway.

Eventually, Berns became the sole owner of Bang Records and upon his untimely death in December 1967, the ownership of the label was retained by his widow Ilene. By this time, Bang was distributing its own product. In 1971, Ilene Berns moved the operation to Atlanta where it remained until CBS purchased the label in 1979. CBS discontinued the imprint in 1982. While the label was sold to CBS, Web IV Music remained the property of Ilene Berns.

While a number of hit artists such as Neil Diamond, The McCoys, Van Morrison, Paul Davis and others recorded for Bang, today we feature the very first Bang release – The Strangeloves’ “I Want Candy.” The single was released on May 22, 1965.

The Strangeloves was a fictional band that was purported to be made up three sheepherding brothers from Australia: Miles, Niles, and Giles Strange. Actually, the band was the production team of Bob Feldman, Jerry Goldstein, and Jerry Gottehrer along with session musicians. The Australian motif for the band was selected as to be different from the numerous British Invasion bands at the time who were making waves on this side of the Atlantic.

Feldman, Goldstein, Gottehrer, and Bert Berns contributed to the composition; incidentally, the credits were attributed to their real names rather than to Miles, Niles, and Giles Strange. Although involved in the writing process, Berns was not involved in the recording of “I Want Candy.” With the popularity of this hit, a touring band had to be created to keep the myth of the Strange brothers alive. The rest, as they say, is history.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Bob Dylan: Hurricane

Did you miss me? I hope so. Several weeks ago, I got sick and put the blog on hold and never found the free time to return to my regular posts – but today as I traveled from West Virginia to Kentucky, I heard that Rubin “Hurricane” Carter had passed away yesterday at the age of 76 of prostate cancer. I knew I had to get back to writing regarding the passing of this legendary former boxer.

But what brought fame to Carter was not his prowess in the ring, it was the tragedy in his life. In 1967, the State of New Jersey wrongly convicted Carter and his friend John Artis for a triple homicide on June 17, 1966 at a Patterson, New Jersey bar. Largely convicted due to racism, Carter spent the next 18 years in jail for the murders, as he put it, he “couldn’t, wouldn’t, and didn’t commit.”

In 1975, Carter’s autobiography, The Sixteenth Round was published and the attention it generated inspired Bob Dylan and Jacques Levy to write and record the single “Hurricane” the same year. Charting at #33, the single appeared on Dylan’s 1976 album “Desire.” The song also appears prominently in the 1999 movie “The Hurricane” starring Denzel Washington as Carter.

The book and single brought Carter’s situation to a broader public, but it would be 10 years before he would be released. Carter later moved to Toronto where he became a motivational speaker and an advocate for others who were wrongly imprisoned.

Although Carter’s life was full of tragedy, he was not bitter. He persevered and became an inspiration for others in similar situations. You are free now, “Hurricane,” free now.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Geffen Records: Ways To Be Wicked

Our final look at Geffen Records takes us back to 1985 self-titled album by the cowpunk band Lone Justice. I remember listening to the cassette version of this LP quite often in my car back then. Lone Justice was formed in 1982 by vocalist Maria McKee and guitarist Ryan Hedgecock. In a short time, they became the darlings of the musical elite and well known and established artists were attending their shows in Los Angeles.

One of those was Linda Ronstadt who alerted David Geffen about their talent, and Lone Justice was signed to Geffen Records. When in town, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers frequented their shows as well. Additionally, Petty and Mike Campbell contributed their composition “Ways to be Wicked” to cut for their debut album. To round out their involvement, Heartbreakers keyboardist Benmont Tench and guitarist Mick Campbell added their respective talents to record.

Although “Ways to be Wicked” was their second single, it performed as their first. Geffen initially released “Sweet, Sweet Baby (I’m Falling); however, the company pulled the single in deference to “Ways to be Wicked” in April 1985. In June, Geffen rereleased “Sweet, Baby, Baby” a second time in June 1985.

While I loved it, “Ways to be Wicked” did not perform to anyone’s expectations – the label’s, the band’s, or even mine. What I thought was a great song with a lot of grit, the public felt otherwise. “Ways to be Wicked” peaked on the Hot 100 at 71 and on the album charts at #29. For our final look at Geffen Records, “Ways to be Wicked” serves as our Saturday Bubbling Under Feature.

Art Promoff & the author; 1985 Pop Music Survey Convention in Atlanta
As I close out our look at Geffen Records, I wish to dedicate this entire past week to my friend Art Promoff. During the greater portion of my time in popular music radio, Art was the National Promotions Director for Geffen. Not only was he a business associate, he was a friend. Tragically two days before Art’s 45th birthday in 1996, he passed away. The world lost a man who loved music and life. Art, we all miss you.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Geffen Records: Here Comes The Feeling

The band Asia might be best known as a “super group” of the second generation prog rock bands. Asia was a synthesis of key players from Yes, King Crimson, and Emerson, Lake, and Palmer. Bassist John Wetton was looking to collaborate with some of the key progressive rock players in a new project since the 1974 breakup of King Crimson. It took seven years, however, for a lineup to gel and the band Asia began to fall into place in 1981.

Steve Howe, the guitarist from the classic version of Yes, was brought in along with a more recent Yes alumnus, keyboardist – Geoff Downes. While Asia would be enjoying the fruit of their labor, Downes was also participating in the production of Yes’ 90125 album – a masterpiece in itself. After the collapse of Emerson, Lake, and Palmer, drummer extraordinaire, Carl Palmer was also added to the group.

Initially, John Fleischman who had performed with Journey was selected to be the lead vocalist, but he bowed out because he felt that Wetton actually had the better voice. The band was signed to Geffen and their self-titled debut album was a colossal success. The album remained in the #1 slot for nine weeks and was a quadruple platinum release in the US.

A total of six songs from “Asia” were pushed to radio, but only three singles proper were issued: “Heat of the Moment,” “Only Time Will Tell,” and “Sole Survivor.” “Sole Survivor,” while not a Top 40 hit, charted at #10 on album radio and its “B” side, “Here Comes the Feeling,” peaked on AOR radio at #40. This classic Asia tune not only serves as our tribute to Geffen Records, it is our Friday Flipside as well. Enjoy.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Geffen Records: A Million Miles Away

Although formed in 1978 and having recorded for two nationally distributed labels (Planet and Geffen), the band would only have one near miss: “A Million Miles Away.” In fact its appearance in the movie “Valley Girl” and its subsequent popularity spurred the band to rerecord “A Million Miles Away” for their only album on Geffen – “Everywhere but Once.”

Not only am I featuring the song as part of my series on Geffen Records it is also my Thursday Repeats and Threepeats selection, as “A Million Miles Away” was originally released on the independent label Shaky City Records in 1982. The single was issued in both 7 and 12 inch versions.

The popularity of “A Million Miles Away” intensified as the song was included in the movie “Valley Girl” where the band appears to be playing it live. Because of this attention, The Plimsouls rerecorded it for inclusion on “Everywhere but Once.” Released in 1983, “A Million Miles Away” placed at the #11 spot on the album radio charts; however, it failed to generate much interest from the mainstream public. Its dismal peak during the summer of ‘83 was at #82 on the Hot 100 chart.

I loved this song and played it as an album cut at WCIR in Beckley, WV; however, it failed to gain any momentum in our market. Prior to disbanding, the band released one further single: “Oldest Story in the World.” By 1984, front man Peter Case was a solo artist and his excellent debut album was also released by Geffen. These two albums were the sum total of Case’s and The Plimsouls’ contributions to David Geffen’s empire.

The Plimsouls’ sound probably had many influences, but one that comes to mind when listening to “A Million Miles Away” is The Byrds. The 12-string electric guitar and the licks that sound like Roger McGuinn’s work are a dead giveaway. Chances are you’ve never heard this cut by The Plimsouls, and if you had, it’s been nearly like “A Million Miles Away.”