Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Buoys: Timothy

Welcome aboard to Uruguayan Air Flight 571 headed to Santiago, Chile. This is your captain and due to the length of today’s flight, we will be serving one meal. Today’s menu includes delicious Polynesian long pig seasoned with rosemary and accented with side orders of soylent green and fettuccine Alfredo. For desert, peach Melba. Our in-flight feature today will be that dark comedy from 1982 – “Eating Raoul.” Once we reach cruising altitude, we’ll be flying at 30,000 feet as we cross the Andes. We invite you to relax and enjoy the breathtaking view. And again, thank you flying Uruguayan Air.

Back in the days before shock jocks, radio stations did something extraordinary – they banned records. Some of those were for silly reasons – such as with The Kingsmen’s “Louie, Louie.” The lyrics were unintelligible and someone had the bright idea that they must also contain “dirty” references. Certain other songs did not fit the mores of the local society and so other records were banned from time to time.

What if a group set out to get their record banned so that it would sell records? It would have to be something shocking – a topic so disgusting that not only does it guarantee that the record would be banned in Boston, but also in Boise, Bismark, and Birmingham. After all, even bad publicity is good publicity.

That topic was . . . [shocking] cannibalism. The mastermind of The Buoys only hit was a man named Rupert Holmes. You may remember Holmes for a series of sappy singles in 1979 and 1980 – “Escape (The Piña Colada Song),” “Him,” and “Answering Machine.” They all performed very well on the charts with “Escape” at #1, “Him” at #6, and “Answering Machine” at #32.

In 1971, he had this idea for a record for The Bouys, a band he was producing at the moment. Holmes approached Scepter Records for a contract for one single. Promotion was out of the question and the band would find other methods to promote the song. Scepter bit.

While it was obvious from the storyline of the song that two of the men trapped in the mine came forth with full bellies and without their friend Timothy. In other words, they had Timothy over for dinner. Well, if you can’t beat ‘em – eat ‘em. Even though radio was hesitant to play the song, teenagers all over the country just ate it up. Slowly, radio began to drop their restrictions and played “Timothy.” This one hit wonder peaked at #17 on the Hot 100.

Rupert Holmes, who penned the tune, went back and secured an album deal from Scepter and the promotional single was re-released this time with two variations that altered the lyrics to please everyone. Scepter, now promoting the single, began to soften the message of the song stating that Joe and his friend ate their pack mule named appropriately “Timothy.” The public at large didn’t swallow that story.

How could a song that has a bouncy rhythm and a tasty violin lead be bad. If you didn’t pay attention, you might not catch its message. It was a formula record – Holmes set out to accomplish a goal with the tune and was successful. I'm sure it is no coincidence that Holmes named his second son “Timothy.”

I didn’t get my copy of the song until the early 80s. One of my contacts in the music business sent me a white label promo copy of the single. Unfortunately, I don’t remember who it was, but I have narrowed it down to two individuals – either Jay Brooks of Elektra Records or Mark Nathan at ATCO. Both often found me hard to get records.

I got the album in 1988 at a used record store in Boston. During that trip, I also bought “The Best of Bill Deal and the Rhondels” and “The Happenings Greatest Hits.” At the time I was doing oldies radio and was always looking for old records that were hard to find.

The Buoys’ LP is kind of confusing as to its title. On the album’s cover, the band was standing under an awning that had “Timothy” written on it. To the left of the band, “Give up your Guns” was mock spray painted on the wall. OK, which is it, “Timothy” or “Give up your Guns?”

If that wasn’t confusing enough, the back cover had “Dinner Music” printed in large script with a photo of the band inside a restaurant. OK, that’s three names – but wait, we haven’t seen the label yet. Title number four is “The Buoys” by The Buoys.” Well I hope you've had your fill of our smorgasbord of album titles. I must go as the maître de is calling: “Donner party of five; Donner party of five.”





Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Fairport Convention: Polly On The Shore

It’s been a while since I featured Fairport Convention with a Traditional Tuesday selection, so I am going back to October 1973 to their ninth LP appropriately titled “Nine.” This is one of those albums that a number of folk have deigned to the trash heap. I am one of not of that opinion, as I always liked this LP. Though it doesn’t have the continuity of “Liege and Leif” or a conceptual them as “Babbacombe Lee,” I like every cut on the album.

“Nine” was released at a time when Fairport was without an original member. This was the second album for the band with Australian Trevor Lucas and American Jerry Donahue and the three Daves: Swarbrick, Mattacks, and Pegg. Lucas replaced Simon Nicol on guitar and vocals and Donahue was the first member solely dedicated to lead guitar since the exit of Richard Thompson following the release of “Full House.” Both came from Fotheringay – a band that contained two-time Fairport member Sandy Denny and future Fairporter Gerry Conway.

The Daves had all been with the band for some time. Swarbrick came on the scene as a guest on “Unhalfbricking” became a full member of the band with “Liege and Leif” – the same album that saw the emergence of Dave Mattacks as the replacement for drummer Martin Lamble who was killed in a motorway accident in 1969. Pegg joined with the next LP, “Full House,” and has remained with the band ever since.

The two newer members of the band really shine on our featured cut “Polly on the Shore.” Lucas’ wonderful deep voice was my favorite aspect of Fotheringay. Even though the major attraction for most was his wife Sandy Denny, I tend to be partial to Lucas’ voice on that bands’ only album.

That partiality extends to Fairport cuts like the traditional “Polly on the Shore” where Lucas takes hold of the lead vocal parts. At one time I thought if I ever had a son I might consider “Trevor Lucas” for a first and middle name as I just liked its ring. I have been blessed, however, with daughters.

Here’s two versions of the song – the first being a mono video that syncs the studio recording of “Polly on the Shore” to a live performance.


Here’s the studio version in stereo which has better sound quality than the above.



To “B” or not to “B” Bend

Jerry Donahue is no Richard Thompson, but Richard Thompson is no Jerry Donahue either. Both brought different styles to the band and Jerry’s tasty American influenced country-rock licks gave a new dimension to the lead work on Fairport’s albums. When I first heard Jerry Donahue play, I thought he was using a Parsons/White Stringbender.

Now marketed as the B-Bender, the product was added to Fender Telecasters to give the guitarist the opportunity to sound like he was playing a pedal steel. This intricate mechanism that was partially developed and used by The Byrds Clarence White required extensive routing of a Telecaster to achieve the effect on the B string.

The product was eventually licensed to Fender and they offer a Clarence White signature model Telecaster that features the B-Bender as part of the guitar’s original equipment. Prior to this, it is estimated that co-designer (Byrds’ drummer and machinist) Gene Parsons custom fit 2,000 Telecasters for the mechanism.

I was wrong about how Donahue accomplished his pedal steel influenced licks. While the B-Bender filled a void, it was limited to bending only one string – the B. If you listen to Jerry’s playing, he is bending nearly all (or maybe all) of the strings on his Telecaster. This was all done without any routing, retrofitting, or redesign of his instrument. Jerry’s technique is fascinating and the following video shows how he does it. Jerry is one of the best, but sadly, little known electric guitarists.



Polly Redux

Simon Nicol does a nice job on this 2007 release on Fairport’s 40th anniversary CD: “Sense of Occasion.” I never realized how much Simons vocal register was in the same range as the late Trevor Lucas. Nicol, who rejoined Fairport in 1976, is the only original member.

Bassist Dave Pegg is the only member who has played on both versions of “Polly on the Shore.” Other members contributing to this recording are Ric Sanders, Chris Leslie, and Gerry Conway. Conway guests on “Rosie” and was a member of Fotheringay with Denny, Lucas, and Donahue – it all comes round again.



Monday, March 28, 2011

Concrete Blonde: Crystal Blue Persuasion

I intended to have Concrete Blonde’s cover of Tommy James and the Shondell’s “Crystal Blue Persuasion” last Monday; however, both Sunday and Monday were very busy days and I didn’t even get a post up for that day. Concrete Blonde’s version was recorded in 1993 for a compilation that supported the “In Defense of Animals Foundation.”

The band fronted by bassist Johnette Napolitano (her last name just rolls of the tongue) took its name from a pejorative term for 80s hair bands who used so much hairspray that their hair was like concrete. Napolitano’s voice is almost indistinguishable from Tommy James’ voice in places. It’s not an exact copy, but it is close.



Tommy James & the Shondells’ Original


I always loved this song – it’s probably in my top 10 favorites from 1969. When Eddie Gray, Tommy James, Mike Vale wrote the song, the band had just converted to Christianity and were studying various passages out of the Bible. In an interview a number of years ago, James thought that it was Revelation 19 that inspired him and Vale to write the lyrics. I think it is more likely that he was inspired by Revelation 21 and 22. Those two chapters fit with the theme of the song much better.

Others in the Shondells’ organization suggest that imagery from Ezekiel and Isaiah were used for the lyrical content in addition to passages from Revelation. You’ll be hard pressed to find an exact correlation with any specific biblical passage; however, I've always thought the song had a spiritual connection because of the following lyric at the key change:

Maybe tomorrow,
When he looks down
On every green field,
And every town
All of his children,
And every nation
They'll be peace and good, brotherhood–
Crystal blue persuasion.

I always thought the organ on this song sounded like a Young Rascals tune. The production on this recording is fantastic, but it took a great deal of work to create this master piece as Tommy James explained in a 2009 interview with Song Facts:

We went in and had a set of drums, we had guitars, we had keyboards, and by the end, we just realized we had totally overproduced the record. It just was not "Crystal Blue Persuasion" anymore. It was a nice track, but wasn't right. So we had to produce the record, and then we had to un-produce the record. And one by one we just started pulling the instruments out, until we ended up with a conga drum, a bongo, a tambourine, a flamenco guitar, and a very light-sounding bass.

We took out the drums completely. We took out all the keyboards except one, which was a Hammond, and ended up with about four instruments on it. Suddenly it became "Crystal Blue Persuasion," the song that we had written. It has kind of an effervescent sound about it, a lot of atmospherics that just weren't there when it had all those instruments on it. Suddenly when you emptied out the record it sounded like "Crystal Blue" again.

It had that light airy sound, which it needed to be right. And it took us about 6 weeks to do all that. It really was a very intricate un-production, pulling all the things out. Actually, it was tougher than putting them in because you didn't want to mess up the record, but you wanted to empty it out. So it came out and went #1 for us.

The horns were later added to the single mix of “Crystal Blue Persuasion.”


Sunday, March 27, 2011

The Beach Boys: Our Prayer

It is California surf and sun meeting the dark shadowy confines of a medieval monastery for Spiritual Sunday. Today’s cut is a very short piece that was originally recorded in 1966 for The Beach Boys’ project “SMiLE” that never was released. It was intended to be the band’s follow-up to the critically acclaimed “Pet Sounds” LP. Brian Wilson envisioned the project as a “teenage symphony to God.”

Although recording commenced on the “SMiLE” project, it was abandoned for a number reasons including the increasing mental problems experienced by the band’s leader. “Our Prayer” was intended to be the first song on this concept album and it finally was released on their 1969 “20/20” album which I got in 1970 or 71 as part of commitment to the Capitol Record Club. Additional vocals were added to “Our Prayer” for this release.


Perhaps in reference to this tune, Beach Boy Al Jardine has his hands positioned for prayer. Brian Wilson does not appear on the albums' front cover, but in the gatefold, he is hiding behind an eye chart. Unfortunately, the record club edition did not have the gatefold.

The author and contest winner Alicia Freeman with Beach Boys
Bruce Johnston and Mike Love; Indianapolis - 1986

The “20/20” album is a little disjointed but is an interesting album nonetheless. While “Our Prayer” wasn’t the single for obvious reasons (no hook), “I Can Hear Music” was the hit and the reason I wanted this particular LP. In 2004, Brian Wilson without the remaining Beach Boys completed the “SMiLE” project in which a re-recording of “Our Prayer” opens the album.


Saturday, March 26, 2011

Blodwyn Pig: Its Only Love

As with every Saturday, I like to feature some lesser known music. Sometimes the music and the musicians are better known in the States than their chart positions would indicate. Today, this is not the case with our featured artist Blodwyn Pig who is barely known in the US.

I really think the reason the band didn't catch on here is that most Americans are hesitant in trying to pronounce unfamiliar names. The Welsh forename of Blodwyn is not well known in the US and I can see numerous announcers passing on playing this band because the were unsure of the pronunciation of their name.

“It’s Only Love” has the distinction of being the first song the band ever recorded and it was the first cut on the first side of the band’s first LP “Ahead Rings Out.” It often was a person’s first taste of Blodwyn Pig.




The band was formed in 1969 by guitarist Mick Abrahams when exited Jethro Tull after appearing only on their debut LP “This Was.” Abrahams disagreed with Ian Anderson over the band’s musical direction which was moving away from the blues into other musical genres. Later in the 1990s, Abrahams toured with the original members of Tull sans Anderson in a band appropriately called “This Was.”

Blodwyn Pig also included Ron Berg on drums, Andy Pyle on bass, and Jack Lancaster on sax and keyboards. Lancaster followed in the footsteps of saxophonists Dick Heckstall-Smith and Rahsaan Roland Kirk by developing the ability of mocking a larger horn section by playing two saxes simultaneously during live performances.

While the sound that Lancaster achieved on stage is featured in this song, I believe that the sax parts were overdubbed as opposed to him simultaneously playing two saxophones. There is one note where the second sax’s attack is slightly delayed leading me to believe they were not played together.

Since I have tenor and soprano saxes, I tried this several years ago after seeing a video of Dick Heckstall-Smith. It really wasn’t that hard to get sounds out of both instruments, but your embouchure is severely limited – so there are certain things that can’t be accomplished. In addition, you are using each hand for a different instrument – so the notes that are played come from a limited range.

One thing I did notice in the video of “Modern Alchemist” that Jack Lancaster was playing in different registers on his instruments. This means he probably disengaged the springs so that the upper register pads remained in the closed position. It really is a neat stage effect and to pull it off like Lancaster and his predecessors, you need to be a really good saxophonist.



Berg and Pyle would eventually surface in another blues outfit Savoy Brown. While Blodwyn Pig never gained the success in the US as other bands in its lineage (Jethro Tull & Savoy Brown), they did receive a modicum of airplay at album stations in the larger cities. I will have to admit that I do not own any Blodwyn Pig albums and just recently rediscovered this classic band and am glad I did.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Cream: SWLABR

Friday’s Flipside is an unusually named tune from Cream’s “Disraeli Gears” LP – “SWLABR.” Besides it having a strange title, how in the heck do you pronounce it? Swabber? Slobber? I don’t know about you, but I can’t pronounce a “W” and “L” that are together.

According to Jack Bruce it isn’t a word at all, the title is an acronym for “She Walks Like A Bearded Rainbow” – honest. You can’t make up something like this. Cream collaborator Pete Brown wrote this psychedelic classic, which was released in 7 inch form as the flipside of “Sunshine of Your Love.” The single peaked in the US at #5. “SWLABR” did not chart. I love Clapton’s double-tracked guitar on this song.



Lyrics


Coming to me in the morning, leaving me at night
Coming to me in the morning, leaving me alone
You've got that rainbow feel,
But the rainbow has a beard

Running to me a-cryin', when he throws you out
Running to me a-cryin', on your own again
You've got that pure feel
Such good responses
But the picture has a mustache

You're comin' to me with that soulful look on your face
Coming lookin' like you've never ever done one wrong thing

You're comin' to me with that soulful look on your face
You're comin' lookin' like you've never ever done one wrong thing

So many fantastic colours, I feel in a wonderland
Many fantastic colours, makes me feel so good
You've got that pure feel
Such good responses
Got that rainbow feel
But the rainbow has a beard

Thursday, March 24, 2011

David Bowie: Changes

It’s TV Thursday and this week I noticed a new BMW commercial that utilizes David Bowie’s “Changes” as a theme. I realize that the commercial has been out since January, but I really hadn't paid any attention to it.

I heard this song so much in 1972 and thereafter and I even played it on the radio. Tonight, I discovered that the song performed less than adequate on the Hot 100 charts. It only peaked at #41. One would have thought it had done better especially since it was utilized as part of the name of his greatest hits LP “CHANGESONEBOWIE.”

“Changes” originally appeared on Bowie’s first RCA album “Hunky Dory.” He wrote the song in a pseudo lounge genre. The musical theme features Bowie’s saxophone and Rick Wakeman’s piano. Bowie also adds guitar, Mellotron, and vocals of course. Longtime Bowie sideman Mick Ronson also plays guitar and arranged the string parts. The stuttering of “Changes” reminds me of two other songs that use that effect: “My Generation” by the Who and “You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet” by BTO.

“Time may change me, but I can’t trace time.”



BMW Commercial



Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Bullet: White Lies, Blue Eyes

A few weeks ago, I alluded to today’s one hit wonder displacing another song with a similar title from becoming a national hit. The other tune was “White Lies” by Nils Lofgren and Grin and it was released in December 1971 – the same month as Bullet’s “White Lies, Blue Eyes.” It was Bullet’s only hit and it peaked at #28 in 1972.

The song was written by Bobby Flax and Lanny Lambert who authored nearly 80 songs separately and together. Bullet was one of the few artists to be signed to Big Tree Records during their early days when the label was distributed by Ampex Records. “White Lies, Blue Eyes” was Big Tree’s 23rd single release.



Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Molly Tuttle: Old Man At The Mill

Molly Tuttle is one of the three children of bluegrass musician and multi-instrumentalist Jack Tuttle who teaches guitar, mandolin, fiddle, banjo, and bass. I can’t every remember hearing anyone play clawhammer guitar, but this arrangement by 18 year-old Molly Tuttle shows her ability as a traditional vocalist and guitarist. “Old Man at the Mill” is our traditional Tuesday selection.



Based out of the San Francisco Bay Area, Jack has definitely proved that he is a proficient instructor by the abilities of his three children. The following video was shot four years ago and features his then 14 year-old daughter Molly on guitar and vocals.

She is joined by her two brothers: Michael, then 10, on mandolin and Sullivan at the age of 12 playing the fantastic flat-picking leads. My brother Chuck who has been playing music for over 50 years says after hearing these kids play so well – he might as well just give up on playing guitar. I certainly understand his feeling. Here’s the three Tuttle Kids doing “Diamond Joe.”





Sunday, March 20, 2011

Dave Van Ronk: Twelve Gates To The City

Most people these days have never heard of Dave Van Ronk, but he had a profound effect upon the Greenwich Village folk music scene in the late 1950s and early 1960s. One artist that Van Ronk took under his wing was a young folksinger from Hibbing, Minnesota named Robert Zimmerman, but better known hereafter as Bob Dylan. Others he influenced included Joni Mitchell, Phil Ochs, Tom Paxton, and Ramblin’ Jack Elliot.



In 1959, Van Ronk became the first white artist to record Rev. Gary Davis’ “Twelve Gates of the City.” It appeared on his LP “Van Ronk Sings Ballads, Blues, and a Spiritual.” Since that time, others including his protégé Dylan recorded the song. Although not the original, it’s a very early cover of Davis’ gospel blues as our Spiritual Sunday song. Just Dave Van Ronk – vocal and guitar.


Saturday, March 19, 2011

Van Morrison: Moondance

Name a song that received a considerable amount of airplay with the release of the album but was not released as a single until seven years after the fact. Well you know from the title that I am talking about the title cut of Van Morrison’s third LP for Warner Brothers – “Moondance.” How did it do, not very well chart wise – it peaked at #92 on the singles charts in 1977 – so, I guess it qualifies as a real bubbling under tune.


It is said that Van Morrison wrote the melody line of “Moondance” while playing soprano sax and then came up with the lyrics. Opinions differ on whether the song is jazz or jazz influenced – I say yes. There’s not a bad part of this tune. I love the horns, walking bass, piano accompaniment and solo, the flute, and saxophone solo. It is one of the several cuts (like "Into the Mystic," "Crazy Love," and "Caravan") that make the album “Moondance” one of the best in Van Morrison’s discography.



I love playing this song on the mandolin. Its structure in Am makes it an easy progression to mimic. The idea of playing it on mandolin was not original. In 1982, I attended a bluegrass festival in Bruceton Mills, WV. One of the last bands of the evening was a group from Forest Hills, Pennsylvania near where I lived as a child. In fact, my first traffic violation (running a red light) occurred in Forest Hills in 1974 when I ran a red light.

Back to the story, this band did the traditional bluegrass fare ala “Salty Dog” and others until the very last song. They introduced the next song as something different and they proceeded to play a mesmerizing version of “Moondance” as the bluegrass purist crowd booed them off the stage. I thought they sounded great with their treatment of this classic album cut from 1970. Unfortunately, I don’t remember the band’s name – but I can do on better, I can feature Van Morrison’s original.



Friday, March 18, 2011

Emerson, Lake, & Palmer: Knife-Edge

It’s another Friday Flipside and today we head back to 1971 with the “B” side to Emerson, Lake, and Palmer’s “Lucky Man,” a song I featured about two months ago. “Knife-Edge” shows the classic side of Keith Emerson as the music is based primarily on a composition by Leoš Janáček and features a J.S. Bach interlude. Richard Fraser, ELP’s lyricist and roadie, and Greg Lake authored the lyrics. This is actually one of the first LP’s heavier tunes.

My second favorite part of the song is where Keith Emerson finishes the Bach interlude and does a pitch bend on the Hammond Organ. Since organs didn’t come with pitch bend wheels, ribbons or any other such device, many musicians wondered how he accomplished this feat. Was it some trick with the tape deck? No – it is so dreadfully simple even a cave man could do it – but it was a little known effect until word got out how Emerson accomplished this and some of his other organ pyrotechnics.

OK, I know you are salivating like Pavlov’s dog – here’s the story. If you are playing an old Hammond B3 (as did Emerson) and you played a chord and simultaneously turned the organ off, the residual electricity in the tubes (valves for you Brits) caused the pitch to raise as it dissipated. The trick was to turn the organ back on so the warm-up was nearly instantaneous. When I was in college, they had a Hammond C3 on stage and occasionally I would go down and play it – yep turning it off created Emerson’s effect.

My favorite part of the song is the ending where the tape deck was shut down without the brakes engaged. On both the single and the LP, where it was the last song on side one, the music slowed and finally stopped just in time for the needle to lift off the record. What a great effect and especially to experience it surrounded by those big can headphones of the 70s. Rock on.



Thursday, March 17, 2011

Spirit: Nature's Way

The weird thing about today’s TV Thursday selection was that until last night I had originally planned for it to be used as a bubbling under song for this coming Saturday; however, I discovered that Winn Dixie used Spirit’s “Nature’s Way” for a commercial about produce.

It is interesting that Lava Studios chose this song for Winn Dixie. I can’t embed the commercial, but here’s a link: http://www.facebook.com/video/video.php?v=412706566414.  The production is very well done; however, it takes the song extremely out of context – but what commercial bed doesn’t. “Nature’s Way” is one of the several pro-environmental songs that Spirit released and received a modicum of album rock airplay.


From the 1970 LP “Twelve Dreams from Dr. Sardonicus,” “Nature’s Way” was probably Spirit’s second most popular tune with “I’ve Got A Line on You” being the most recognizable song. There are others such as “Fresh Garbage” and “Mr. Skin” that were known for FM airplay as well.

The late Randy California wrote and sang lead on this tune. My favorite part of the song is California’s step-father Ed Cassidy’s very tasteful treatment of the toms. Cassidy, who was the oldest rock ‘n roller in the 60s, is still alive today at the ripe old age of 87. Other members of Spirit included Jay Ferguson, the late John Locke, and Mark Andes. Andes is the only former member I’ve met and that was when he was playing bass for Heart.



Lyrics


It's nature's way of telling you something's wrong
It's nature's way of telling you in a song
It's nature's way of receiving you
It's nature's way of retrieving you
It's nature's way of telling you
Something's wrong

It's nature's way of telling you, summer breeze
It's nature's way of telling you, dying trees
It's nature's way of receiving you
It's nature's way of retrieving you
It's nature's way of telling you
Something's wrong
It's nature's way, it's nature's way
It's nature's way, it's nature's way

It's nature's way of telling you
Something's wrong
It's nature's way of telling you
In a song, oh-h

It's nature's way of receiving you
It's nature's way
It's nature's way of retrieving you
It's nature's way
It's nature's way of telling you
Something's wrong, something's wrong, something's wrong


Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Ides of March: Vehicle

Well I am a day late and a dollar short for today’s one hit wonder group, but be that it is a day after “The Ides of March,” I still think we can squeeze in this classic one hit band. Et Tu Brute? The year was 1970 and the growling voice of Jim Peterik and the pounding horns of The Ides of March could be heard nationwide. The rumor that Peterik was 16 when he sang the hit “Vehicle” is unfounded – he was 20 at the time.

I think the rumor occurred because when the band had its first major record deal in 1966 with Parrot Records and released a slew of singles, Peterik was only 16. The band was a local sensation in Chicagoland getting airplay on clear channel AM giants like WLS (890) and WCFL (1000). Although a decent following in the Midwest and five singles for Parrot and one on Kapp, The Ides of March failed to garner national attention until they signed to Warner Brothers in 1970.

I had an opportunity to walk down a corridor in the Charleston (WV) Civic Center backstage with Jim Peterik when he was with Survivor. He was a very pleasant individual to talk to and we discussed his early career with The Ides of March; however, I don’t remember much of the conversation that took place 26 years ago.

In fact all of the guys in Survivor were pleasant except their lead guitarist Frankie Sullivan. I had a back stage pass and went to introduce myself to him and he yelled for his road manager to call security. He was really whiny. He is definitely not of the same caliber of Jim Peterik who will always be remembered for this #2 charting one hit wonder.




Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Davy Graham: Anji

A song that inspired a generation of guitarists, Davy Graham’s instrumental “Anji” was issued on an EP in 1963 titled “3/4 AD.” While Graham uses an Am chord variation on this tune, he capos the guitar at the third fret and the song transposes as Cm. Sometimes the song is found on other albums as “Angi,” “Angie,” and even “On gee.” Others that recorded Graham’s original composition include Bert Jansch, Paul Simon, Chicken Shack, John Renbourn, and Ralph McTell.



While it is short in length, this fingerstyle classic is big on sound. The song has three separate movements. While he never received the commercial acclaim that matched his talent, Graham was a giant in the folk guitar genre.


 One of his greatest contributions was the modal guitar tuning DADGAD that has been borrowed by numerous others including Jimmy Page – who actually stole, er, borrowed a Graham arrangement of “She moved through the Fair” as the basis for his Yardbirds’ instrumental “White Summer.”



Monday, March 14, 2011

Eric Clapton: Knockin' On Heaven's Door

I don’t know how many of you remember this little played single from 1975, but almost two years after Bob Dylan released the original single from the movie “Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid,” Eric Clapton recorded his reggae inspired interpretation of “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door.” Clapton’s cover only made it 38 on the charts while Dylan’s original just barely missed the top 10 peaking at #12 in the fall of ’73.

I remember the first time I heard Dylan’s version. It was a weekend in September 1973 and a fellow student Kevin Yeager and I drove back from college in Kentucky to our home in Pennsylvania as our first vacation from school as freshmen. I am not sure what precipitated such an early trip home from school, but several of us piled into Kevin’s white 64 Ford Galaxy 500 and made that 300 mile trek.

There were two memorable events from the radio that Friday – hearing “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” and learning the news that Jim Croce had passed away in a plane crash the night before. Incidentally, it was the same week that former Byrd/Flying Burrito Gram Parsons had died as well and I can remember reading the strange story that appeared in Saturday’s paper of how his body was stolen and was burned in the desert by two of his friends. I clipped the article for a current events scrapbook for my World Civilization class.

It’s kind of strange – Gram Parsons – then Jim Croce – and the song “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door.” I never made any connection of the three until now and am amazed that nearly 40 years later it is a clear today as it was then.

Back to Clapton; his single was not released at the time on an album, although it later appeared on “Time Pieces: The Best of Eric Clapton” in 1982. Always cognizant of singles that were not album releases, I normally bought these 7 inch discs that might just never surface on an LP. I purchased my copy at one of the three outlets in Grayson, KY that sold singles – “the Sundry Store.” The other two record haunts in that small town of less than 4,000 was the “DJ Record Shop” and “Ralph’s.” I made my rounds every week to each one.

¬

Clapton added his talents to another version of this song that he produced, played guitar, and sang back-up. Randy Crawford provided the accompaniment vocals that are the focus of the tune and David Sanborn the memorable saxophone parts. This version appeared on “Lethal Weapon 2” soundtrack.



Dylan’s Original


It’s rare to find a Dylan studio original on YouTube and I am afraid this recording won’t last long before either Dylan’s management or Sony has it pulled. But in the meantime, enjoy this classic from 1973. It is really showcases Dylan’s ability to take a simple chord progression (G-D-Am7-Am7; G-D-C-C) and turn it into a thing of greatness. There’s only one thing wrong with this song – it’s too darn short.





Sunday, March 13, 2011

Jim Richter: Wayfaring Stranger

Serendipity is what I call it when I just search for something on YouTube and find a real gem of a tune. I searched for tenor guitar, one of my favorite instruments, and low and behold I found Jim Richter and his instrumental version of “Wayfaring Stranger.” I haven’t touched my tenor guitar in months, but I tune it the same way Richter does – the classic tuning schema for the instrument – CGDA. Others use GDAE, GDAD, DGBE, and probably a handful of other tunings, but the C tuning is the one I like. It makes the guitar sing, but unfortunately it does place a great deal of tension on the neck.

Unlike Richter who plays a National Triolian Tenor from the mid 30s, I have a similarly aged Gibson TG-0 that I bought for $80.00 from a guy out of the trunk of his car in about 1986. He was traveling from New York to Florida and stopped into a local music store trying to rustle up some cash. The salesman, the late Alan Martin, called me on the phone and asked me if I wanted it, I said sure and was there in fifteen minutes. It needs some work, but It still sounds great although the action is not as low as I would have liked.

I do have a National Triolian Mandolin from about 1937 that I purchased from Joe Dobbs when he had his store, the Fret and Fiddle in the West End of Huntington, WV. I paid $165 for it in 1980 – which was a bit of an outlay for me at the time, but I could not pass it up. It doesn’t sound near as good as Jim Richter’s Triolian Tenor though. The paint schema on mine is the darker greenish version of the Triolian finish and not the yellowish color on Jim’s instrument.

Richter touts himself as a mandolinist, but I feel that he is perfectly at home on the tenor guitar. Expect to hear some more of his songs on “Reading Between the Grooves.”






Saturday, March 12, 2011

Nils Lofgren & Grin: White Lies

Although not extremely popular during their heyday, Grin had quite the following in the Middle Atlantic States. Although its persona was a little schizophrenic as it was sometimes considered as a band and sometimes the alter ego of Nils Lofgren, either way Grin is one of those acts that never got the recognition it should.

During the Grin period, Nils was befriended by Neil Young when he was 18 and was given the opportunity to play guitar and keyboards on the LP “After the Goldrush.” Although having studied classical accordion as a child, Nils was hesitant to take on the piano duties for Young’s album and therefore he practiced his parts as often as he could. Often working round the clock on his parts prior to recording the tracks.

He really is an accomplished piano player and well as a guitarist. I got to see him live in 1985 with Bruce Springsteen’s band and he was one of the high points of the show. Having also studied as a gymnast, Nils often does acrobatics on stage which adds to the show. His 5’ 3” height gives him an advantage, as he frequently does tumbles, rolls, and flips without missing a lick on the guitar.



The closest thing to a hit that Grin had was the song “White Lies.” Probably the reason it didn’t make it as a hit was that it was released in January 1972 – one month after the release of Bullet’s hit “White Lies, Blue Eyes.” Probably the similarity of titles doomed “White Lies” from becoming a national hit. As other Grin recordings had a following in the Metro DC area, “White Lies” got frequent airplay in our nation’s capital – and thus qualifies as today’s “Bubbling Under Hit.”


Friday, March 11, 2011

Rod Stewart: Mandolin Wind

“Mandolin Wind” is one of my favorite Rod Stewart songs from his acclaimed album “Every Picture Tells a Story.” In the US, Mercury Records released the song as the flip of Stewart’s cover of the Temptations’ “(I Know) I’m Losing You,” which only charted at 24. I can remember buying this single on the strength of the flip and not the “A” side.

The song features Ronnie Wood on pedal steel guitar, Martin Quittenton on acoustic guitar, Sam Mitchell on slide guitar, and of course Ray Jackson on mandolin. Despite the title, the mandolin is not featured as prominently until the end of the song unlike Jackson’s playing on the LP’s lead single “Maggie May.” Jackson was the mandolinist in Lindisfarne.



Lyrics

When the rain came I thought you'd leave
'cause I knew how much you loved the sun
But you chose to stay, stay and keep me warm
through the darkest nights I've ever known
If the mandolin wind couldn't change a thing
then I know I love ya
Oh the snow fell without a break
Buffalo died in the frozen fields you know
Through the coldest winter in almost fourteen years
I couldn't believe you kept a smile
Now I can rest assured knowing that we've seen the worst
And I know I love ya
Oh I never was good with romantic words
so the next few lines come really hard
Don't have much but what I've got is yours
except of course my steel guitar
Ha, 'cause I know you don't play
but I'll teach you one day
because I love ya
I recall the night we knelt and prayed
Noticing your face was thin and pale
I found it hard to hide my tears
I felt ashamed I felt I'd let you down
No mandolin wind couldn't change a thing
Couldn't change a thing no, no
The coldest winter in almost fourteen years
could never, never change your mind
And I love ya
Yes indeed and I love ya
And I love ya
Lordy I love ya

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Tall Tree 6 Ft. Man: Tears And Laughter

Here’s another one that I heard on a recent rerun of “Bones.” It was the episode entitled “The Man in the Mansion” and features Jack Hodgins prominently in the storyline. I found the song so haunting that I had to turn to Google to find out who and what it was. I think the nearly solo piano and some of the backwards guitar effects what drew me to “Tears and Laughter” by an artist named unusually as Tall Tree 6 Ft. Man.



Tall Tree 6 Ft. Man is officially Jonathan Czerwik who is based in Cambridge, England but was born in Yorkshire. Czerwik or Tall or Tree or however you address him informally plays all of the instruments on this cut. He quotes Pink Floyd as an early interest and you can hear bits and pieces of Floyd in this cut. Now that he is supporting the CD live, Czerwik has enlisted a troupe of musicians and they are collectively known as “Tall Tree 6 Ft. Man.”



Lyrics


No one’s going to come along and line your palms with gold,
And if they did, you would unfold;
And if they did, you’d be wrong to take it.

After all the tears and all the laughter,
Your happiness is a string of disasters -
Oh, what more could someone ask for?

No one’s going to say it’s wrong to set alight your soul,
But if they did, where would it go
With all your home in ashes?

After all the fear of showing ages,
On your face like the heavy scent of time
When time is all we’re after.

Step away, stay in the light,
Then we’ll watch them all walk by

To the waterside.

After all the fear of showing ages,
On your face like the heavy scent of time

When time is all we’re after.
Still, on all the walls we have reminders

Of the times we left behind us,
Now all your words are silence.
Step away, stay in the light,
Then we’ll watch them all walk by

To the waterside.



Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Chi Coltrane: Thunder And Lightning

Wednesday’s One Hit Wonder is from Racine, Wisconsin’s own Chi Coltrane. One of seven children born of a German father and Canadian mother, Chi (pronounced “shy”) is still performing music and touring today. Her best known hit record released in January 1972 was “Thunder and Lightning.” It was a powerful tune that almost never made it to the charts as it took until November of 72 to peak at #17 on the Hot 100.


Her only hit features Chi's strong vocals and pounding piano. This is such a good song I can’t understand why Columbia Records didn’t do more with promoting her music to the masses. While the A&R department at CBS had the initiative to sign her in the first place, the promotion staff dropped the ball in regard to her hit potential. While radio did give a few spins to “Go Like Elijah” (which you may hear some day in the near future), “Thunder and Lightning” was sadly her only American hit.



Tuesday, March 8, 2011

John Wesley Harding: Little Musgrave

A couple Thursday nights ago, I had the opportunity of hearing an interview with Wesley Stace who performs under the name of John Wesley Harding. It was the public radio show “To the Best of Our Knowledge” and Stace was discussing how he has woven music into his third novel “Charles Jessold, Considered as a Murderer.”

Stace, who has taken his stage name from Bob Dylan’s eighth studio album, “John Wesley Harding,” used an appellation which in itself a takeoff on the name of the western outlaw John Wesley Hardin. I remember reading somewhere decades ago that the real John Wesley Hardin was a relative of folksinger Tim Hardin. I cannot confirm this and I read this probably forty years ago about the time when I got Dylan’s releases as my second album by Mr. Zimmerman. If there is truth in this, which I am beginning to doubt, the name really comes full circle.

Back to Stace or Harding or whatever moniker he is using for whatever project, he sang his version of the song “Little Musgrave” based off of the same song that Fairport Convention recorded under the name of “Matty Groves.” “Little Musgrave” is our traditional Tuesday song today and eventually I plan to get a copy of “Charles Jessold, Considered as a Murderer” as the premise sounds intriguing to me.


Monday, March 7, 2011

Warren Haynes & The Dave Matthews' Band: Cortez The Killer

A few weeks ago before I got the flu, Greg Rector requested a song for a Monday cover tune – Warren Haynes with the Neil Young LP cut “Cortez the Killer.” I can’t tell you when I first heard Haynes with “Government Mule.” It may have been on late night TV or at a performance of Mountain Stage Radio Show.

Haynes, who is performing here with the Dave Matthews Band, is known for his participation in the jam band scene where he has performed as a member of Government Mule, the Dicky Betts Band, the Allman Brothers Band, and as a special guest of the Dave Matthews’ Band and the Grateful Dead.



Neil Young & Crazy Horse’s Original


From Neil & Crazy Horse’s 1975 release of “Zuma,” here’s the original version of “Cortez the Killer.”



Lyrics


He came dancing across the water
With his galleons and guns
Looking for the new world
In that palace in the sun.

On the shore lay Montezuma
With his coca leaves and pearls
In his halls he often wondered
With the secrets of the worlds.

And his subjects
gathered 'round him
Like the leaves around a tree
In their clothes of many colors
For the angry gods to see.

And the women all were beautiful
And the men stood
straight and strong
They offered life in sacrifice
So that others could go on.

Hate was just a legend
And war was never known
The people worked together
And they lifted many stones.

They carried them
to the flatlands
And they died along the way
But they built up
with their bare hands
What we still can't do today.

And I know she's living there
And she loves me to this day
I still can't remember when
Or how I lost my way.

He came dancing across the water
Cortez, Cortez
What a killer.


Sunday, March 6, 2011

Steven Curtis Chapman: Tuesday's Child

Our spiritual Sunday selection comes from the pen of Steven Curtis Champan and it is an adaptation of an old Dorsett, England nursery rhythm “Monday’s Child.” I remember buying this cassette in the early 90s and thinking the song “Tuesday’s Child” was very cleverly written.

The spiritual message is that he wanted to be “Tuesday’s Child,” because that child was the one full of grace. That makes sense to me as we all need grace in our lives. I love songs that tell a story or ones that have a clever twist and this one certainly does.



Saturday, March 5, 2011

Pink Floyd: Us And Them

Today’s bubbling under hit comes from one of the greatest albums of all time: Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon.” “Us and Them” was not only the second single from the release, it was the longest cut on the album and the oldest song to be used in the recording.

“Us and Them” had its beginnings as a Richard Wright instrumental that was slated for release on the soundtrack for “Zabriskie Point” in 1969. The original demo featured Wright on Piano and Roger Waters on bass. Originally titled “The Violent Sequence,” the song was rejected by the film producer as it was unlike their heavier material. Roger Waters would later write the lyrics with David Gilmour singing with Wright singing harmonies.

The saxophone solos are by session musician Dick Parry who lent his talents to other Pink Floyd songs such as “Money” and “Shine on You Crazy Diamond.” Parry traveled with the band on the 1973, 1977, and 1994 world tours. The talking in the middle of the song is the band’s roadie – Roger the Hat.

I found my original copy of the single edit on this last week, but have no way at the present to convert the vinyl to digital – so I am indebted to the versions I can find on YouTube. The single never made it to the Hot 100 by peaking at #102. The flipside was “Time.”

I got my copy of this album as a high school graduation present back in 1973. It was the best gift I received. Since “Us and Them” runs from the previous cut “Money” and segues into “Any Colour You Like,” it is difficult to get a clean version of this song that doesn’t sound like it is chopped.



Excellent Live Version




Friday, March 4, 2011

Wings: Little Woman Love

If you’ve been paying attention, you’ve noticed that I haven’t been making any posts here on “Reading Between the Grooves” as I have been suffering from the flu. Although I am not completely over it, I thought I would try my hand at making a post since some of my energy has returned.

Every Friday I feature a flipside and this week the “B” side of Wings’ second single “Mary Had a Little Lamb” is our feature song. Because American radio panned the “A” side and flipped the single, “Little Woman Love” was the radio hit. I prefer it to their version of the classic nursery rhyme which was intended to be the hit record. The single charted at #28 in 1972.

My favorite part of this short little song is the piano run that Paul McCartney plays. In college, a friend of mine and master musician Keith Shimfessel showed me how to play that lick. I’ll be indebted to him forever. There are other gems of production in this song that is just barely over two minutes in length. One of those is the acoustic bass run halfway through the tune. Good stuff from McCartney and company.