Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Tom Rush: No Regrets

It’s not very often that I feature an American folksinger on Traditional Tuesday’s, but the other night I reacquainted myself with a true American original – Tom Rush. I have exactly two Tom Rush LPs: “The Circle Game” from 1968 on Elektra and “Ladies Love Outlaws” from 1974 on Columbia. Both LPs contain different renditions of his signature tune about love lost (& love get lost) – “No Regrets.”

The two versions have different arrangements of the same tune with the 1974 more heavily produced on the album that has more of a country and not folk feel to it. Carly Simon sings a duet with Tom on that version. I prefer the sparsely produced version from “The Circle Game.” I also like that album better as it is more of what I expect out of a singer like Rush. The later album does have some great tunes like “Hobo’s Mandolin” and “Desperados Waiting for A Train” that I like.

Today’s incarnation is even less produced than “The Circle Game’s” recording. It features Tom alone with his Epiphone Texan guitar playing and singing a more recent rendition in a fashion as one might expect from someone who is primarily known as a folk singer.

The unique sound emanating from his guitar is largely due to the fact that he has tuned it to an open C. The low C note, putting the guitar in the range of a ‘cello, gives it a distinctive sound on the bass as it rattles as the string flaps against the fretboard unnaturally due to a lack of tension. His slack key tuning is from low to high: C G C G C E. Two strings, the G and E, are at pitch; the B string is the only one raised a semitone to C; the A and D are dropped a whole step, while the low C is two steps below standard tuning.

”No Regrets” video

From the album “The Circle Game,” Tom produced a video for this song. Shot on 16mm film, the optical sound from the film is pretty scratchy due to numerous plays.


The film, like many color prints and slides from that era, has faded with age. Since there isn’t a good quality version from the 1968 album on YouTube, this one must suffice. By the way, the cover for “The Circle Game” was shot by photographer Linda Eastman who became better known as Mrs. Paul McCartney.


I know your leavin's too long overdue
For far too long I've had nothin' new to show to you
Goodbye dry eyes I watched your plane
Fade off west of the moon
And it felt so strange to walk away alone

No regrets, no tears goodbye
Don't want you back, we'd only cry, again
Say goodbye, again

The hours that were yours, echo like empty rooms
The thoughts we used to share, I now keep alone
I woke last night and spoke to you,
Not thinking you were gone
It felt so strange to lie awake, alone

No regrets, no tears goodbye
Don't want you back, we'd only cry, again
Say goodbye, again

Our friends have tried to turn my nights to day
Strange faces in your place can't keep the ghosts away
Just beyond the darkest hour, just behind the dawn
Still feels so strange to lead my life, alone

I've no regrets, no tears goodbye
Don't want you back, we'd only cry, again
Say goodbye, again

Monday, August 30, 2010

KT Tunstall: Tangled Up In Blue

Today’s Monday cover is Scottish vocalist KT Tunstall’s rendition of Bob Dylan’s classic track “Tangled up in Blue.” This live cut is fantastic. It’s the first time I’ve ever seen anyone play drums with a set of maracas. KT’s raw voice brings a different type emotion to Dylan’s 1975 hit from “Blood on the Tracks.”

KT is playing a Gibson Dove – a guitar that Gibson developed specifically for the gospel music industry. Her bassist is sporting what appears to be an Epiphone Jack Casady Bass – a copy of the famed Gibson EB-2 that Casady used almost exclusively with the Jefferson Airplane and Hot Tuna. The loops at the beginning of this cut that’s set up the rhythm of the song is accomplished by two pedals: an Akai E2 Head Rush and a Boss Digital Delay.

Live Version by Dylan

Rolling Stone ranks “Tangled up in Blue” as 68th in the top 500 songs of all time. The single peaked in the US at #31 for Mr. Zimmerman.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Buddy Miller: All My Tears

I first heard this song in 2007 when I discovered an AT&T Blue Room mini concert featuring Buddy Miller. Unfortunately, that concert as well as others in that series has been pulled from the net. This is a pity as it probably was the best recording of the song “All my Tears.” Julie Miller wrote the song after her and Buddy’s friend Mark Heard died unexpectedly in 1992.

Numerous people have recorded the song with the exception of Julie’s husband Buddy. In my opinion, he does the best version of anyone. It is a normal part of Buddy’s set list and he performs it every night in concert, but has avoided recording it.

This incomplete version, as it is chopped off before the song ends, was recorded 2007 winter NAMM (National Association of Music Merchants) show. In this concert (obviously sponsored by Fender), Buddy plays a Fender acoustic guitar that is tuned low to high D A D G B D also know as double dropped D tuning.

Since 2007, I have performed this song 5 times – once on mandolin and the others on guitar using the double dropped D tuning. It has remained one of my favorite tunes to perform.


When I go don’t cry for me
In my Father’s arms I’ll be
The wounds this world left on my soul
Will all be healed and I’ll be whole

Sun and moon will be replaced
With the light of Jesus’ face
And I will not be ashamed
For my savior knows my name

It don’t matter where you bury me
I’ll be home and I’ll be free
It don’t matter where I lay
All my tears be washed away

Gold and silver blind the eye
Temporary riches lie
Come and eat from heaven’s store
Come and drink and thirst no more

So weep not for me my friend
When my time below does end
For my life belongs to him
Who will raise the dead again

It don’t matter where you bury me
I’ll be home and I’ll be free
It don’t matter where I lay
All my tears be washed away

Saturday, August 28, 2010

John Mayall: Back to the Roots

John Mayall, not to be confused with that other fine musician John Mayer, is one of those living legends of music who through his many band lineups mentored many other musicians. The list includes such greats as Eric Clapton and Jack Bruce of Cream; Mick Taylor of the Rolling Stones; Larry Taylor and Harvey Mandel of Canned Heat; Peter Green, Mick Fleetwood, and John McVie of Fleetwood Mac; Johnny Almond and Jon Mark of Mark Almond; Andy Fraser of Free; Jon Hiseman and Dick Heckstall-Smith of the Graham Bond Organization; Hughie Flint of McGuinness Flint; and countless others.

While some in that long list of names undoubtedly will be familiar, others may not. Be that as it may, the first John Mayall album I bought was the double LP from 1971 and was called “Back to the Roots.” By 1972, the album could be found in the cutout bins and was highly recommended by my older brother who had been a Mayall fan for years. I found the album to be refreshing and quite an education in the musicians that were featured in the Bluesbreakers – Mayall’s premier band.

The album was a reunion of sorts of Mayall with those who honed their skills in the Bluesbreakers. The double album on Polydor featured 18 cuts that showed a multifaceted side of multi-instrumentalist Mayall on guitar, keyboards, and harmonica. While I won’t feature every song on the LP, I will showcase a few of the better selections.

Blue Fox

This instrumental rocks. The interplay between Mayall’s harmonica and Sugarcane Harris’ fiddle is absolutely fantastic. The close mic placement on Mayall picks up every breath, grunt, and groan as he wails. While producers might be hesitant to include such extraneous sounds on a recording, they add to the flavor of this tune. Jerry McGee is the featured guitarist. Check it out.

Unanswered Questions

Featuring Canned Heat alumni Larry Taylor on bass and Harvey Mandel on lead guitar, “Unanswered Questions” features Mayall on organ and once again the violin of Don “Sugarcane” Harris. It answers the question, can a violin be a blues instrument? Most definitely. My favorite part – the tight ending. They just don’t end songs this way anymore.

Dream with Me

This is a great little tune that opens side three of the LP features the flute of Johnny Almond. Both Mayall and Mandel share guitar duties on the laid back number with Larry Taylor and Keef Hartley as the rhythm section. Johnny Almond is the star on this cut.

Marriage Madness

“Marriage Madness” is slow blues at its best and features Mayall on a Hammond B3 organ and former Rolling Stone Mick Taylor on lead guitar. I forgot how great a guitarist Taylor was – he got his start with Mayall and was hired to replace Brian Jones who first quit the Stones and then died less than a month later. Taylor was 20 years old at the time he joined the Rolling Stones and only 22 on this recording. Wow, what talent. In the mix, Johnny Almond adds alto and tenor sax.

Goodbye December

Opening up side four is a mellow ditty featuring the lead guitar of Mr. Slowhand: Eric Clapton. Mandel and Mayall also play guitar. Keef Hartley’s drumming is, how you say, interesting on this cut. “Goodbye December” also proves that Mr. Mayall can play some laid back harmonica licks as well. While it’s not my favorite cut of the album these days, it was for a very long time.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Joni Mitchell: Big Yellow Taxi

I got thinking about this song because our house is being purchased by my employer to be torn down to make way for a parking lot or a green space. They are not sure just yet, but the idea of a parking lot made me think of Joni Mitchell’s song. It wasn’t until I started listening to this tune that I realized that since 1970, I thought she and others were singing “the pink paradise” but rather she is singing “the paved paradise.”

While the original studio version from “Ladies of the Canyon” is not available on YouTube, a live version from 1970 will have to suffice. Joni’s original of her composition which many will remember is not the highest charting version of the song. This original, and our Friday First feature, only peaked at #67. A later live version charted in 1975 for the songwriter making it the highest charting version of the tune in the US at #24. On this version Joni has her guitar tuned to a open D and is capoed at the fourth fret making the song in F#.

More Recent Live Version

As our voices lower as we get older, Joni has dropped the capo in more recent years and no longer sings the song in F# but rather in D. Here she accompanies herself on an electric guitar and does an impromptu Bob Dylan impersonation.

The Neighborhood

Besides Joni’s live version in 1975, there may be conjecture on what version may have been the most popular studio version of the song. Amy Grant’s 1994 release mirrored Joni Mitchell’s original release by only peaking at #67. Counting Crows also released a single of “Big Yellow Taxi” in 2003, but it only peaked in the US at #42. The version I remember is the one released by the Neighborhood during the summer of 1970. It was the best performing studio version of “Big Yellow Taxi” with a peak at #29.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Screamin' Jay Hawkins: I Put A Spell On You

The other night, the season finale of “Memphis” featured a song recorded by Screamin’ Jay Hawkins in 1956 for the OKeh record label. “I Put A Spell On You” was successful far beyond its charting potential – which in 1956 was so bizarre that even a sedated version that eliminated some of the cannibalistic overtones failed also to make Billboard’s Hot 100. I first heard about Screamin’ Jay when I read a history of Rock ‘N Roll in 1971 that a fellow high school classmate allowed me to borrow.

Obtaining the book coincided with my contracting the mumps and I spent my week off from school reading the book cover to cover. The book, whose name and author have long been forgotten, dealt with rock’s routes and some of the early personas that influenced a number of others. Screamin’ Jay was credited as being the sole inspiration of the Crazy World of Arthur Brown who’s “Fire” was a #2 hit. Brown recorded “I Put a Spell on You” on his debut LP. He is also credited as influencing Alice Cooper, Ozzy Osbourne, Marilyn Manson, and a host of other shock rockers.

Here’s a version taken from the original 78 rpm release. The quality is phenomenal for a 78.

Hawkins, known primarily as a blues vocalist before recording “Spell,” had no memory of this recording session other than someone brought food and liquor to the studio and he apparently recorded the song while drunk. Cleveland DJ Alan Freed gave Hawkins the inspiration to spice up his act by rising out of a coffin surrounded by fog.

The shtick shtuck and it became Hawkins’ on-stage persona. Besides being used in “Memphis,” "I put a spell on You" has been used as a commercial bed for Pringles, Burger King, and Levis. Here’s a live rendition sans coffin, but with Hawkins’ side kick – the skull Henry.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Four Live Yardbirds

There are those bands from the 60s that are well known (The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, and The Who) even today’s Gen-X music lovers will appreciate; however, when you go deeper into some of the more seminal bands of the period, the hoi polloi tend to have forgotten these very foundational groups.

Although The Yardbirds had hit singles and included some of the top musicians of the era, many have forgotten their influence. The band is best known for their succession of three lead guitarists: Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, and Jimmy Page.

Today, I feature four from four – when The Yardbirds were a quartet, but what a quartet. On vocals and harmonica, the late Keith Relf who was accidentally electrocuted at home in 1976 while playing his electric guitar which suffered from a bad ground. Relf’s musical partner Jim McCarty holds down the back beat. Chris Dreja, The Yardbird’s original rhythm guitarist, handling bass chores and Jimmy Page is on guitar.

Over, Under, Sideways, Down

How many songs do you know with four prepositions strung together? I remember during my oldies show at WWNR I featured an hour special that only contained hits whose titles ended in a preposition. I opened the show with this top 20 Yardbird's hit from 1966.

When the band began playing this tune, Jeff Beck was the lead guitarist and overdubbed the guitar parts. Later when Jimmy Page had joined the band to replace Paul Samwell-Smith who left touring for producing, songs like “Over, Under, Sideways, Down” needed twin lead guitars to approximate the recorded version. To accommodate this and other Yardbirds’ songs live in concert, Chris Dreja moved to bass and Jimmy Page was elevated to second lead guitar.

On “Live Yardbirds featuring Jimmy Page,” Keith Relf mentions (and I am paraphrasing) that they really didn’t know if they could pull this song off live without two guitarists, but lightning fingers Page was able to do it solo.

Shapes of Things

Another one of the singles recorded with Jeff Beck on guitar in 1966 and before Jimmy Page joined the band. The single version charted in 1966 at #11 in the US; however, in their native Britain, it peaked at # 3. The interesting thing I find about these videos is that Page is playing a Fender Telecaster – an instrument that I don’t ever remember him playing in Led Zeppelin.

 With his Dan Electro Double Cutaway model

Usually, he is depicted with a Gibson Les Paul, Gibson SG shaped 12/6 double neck, or a ’59 Dan Electro Double Cutaway (with the seal-shaped pick guard). If you look closely, it appears that the band is using Standel amps and cabinets; however, they are actually a German made amp - Echolette.

Dazed and Confused

Before Robert Plant sang a lick of Jake Holmes “Dazed and Confused” (which, by the way, they ripped off the songwriting and publishing rights). Like on the Zeppelin version of the song, Page uses a violin bow – and idea he got from concert violist David McCallum, Sr. who bowed a guitar on a TV special. McCallum’s son, David McCallum, Jr. is best known for his roles of Illya Kuryakin on the Man from U.N.C.L.E. and Dr. Donald Mallard (aka Ducky) on NCIS.

I’m A Man

Here’s one that features Relf at his best as The Yardbirds do the Bo Diddley classic “I’m A Man.” It really showcases how good a harp player Relf was. This was also a top 20 hit for The Yardbirds in the US in 1965. Page uses the bow on this one as well.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Doc & Dawg: Summertime

I was practicing a song with my friend Keith Janney the other night of a swing arrangement we were working on for this coming Sunday night. Keith will playing guitar and I will be on vocals, mandolin, and harmonica. We got into an impromptu jam at one point and I said it reminded me of the style of music popularized by David Grisman that he called Dawg music. I got on YouTube looking for some Grisman jams and found a concert that he did with acoustic guitar legend Doc Watson in 1998.

While not Dawg music per se, David’s playing has elements of that style is showing through. The fine acoustic leads are handled by Jack Lawrence on his signature D-28 Martin guitar. While I am a Gibson fan, you cannot beat the quality of a Martin. A friend of mine’s wife bought him a D-45 for his 60th birthday a few years ago and he let me play it once. It played like butter on hot toast. I doubt if I’ll own one due to the price – but my 60th birthday is coming up in 5 ½ years if my wife is listening. I can wait for a D-45. I will wait. Hint. Hint.

The selection is from the LP “Doc and Dawg” and is the best known song from the opera “Porgy and Bess.” DuBose Heyward wrote the novel and play and he and George and Ira Gershwin created the music for the opera in 1935. The song has been recorded hundreds of times and may be one of the best known songs of the twentieth century. I remember as a teenager working out an arrangement on piano using some of the chords I had learned from a piano chord book that had belonged to my father. It is the epitome of a great song that transcends styles, instrumentation, and the years.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Poddighe Acoustic Duo: Black Magic Woman

I featured this cover of the Santana hit from 1970 back on Facebook before I started my blog nearly a year ago. The Poddighe Acoustic Duo, an Italian cover band, features the fantastic acoustic guitar work of Carlo Poddighe and Andrea Damiani on bass. When Andrea Poddighe joins on drums and Carlo picks up his electric axe, they become the Poddighe Power Trio.

On this cut for Italian TV, Carlo is playing a Gibson J-45 – a sweet sounding guitar from the company that made Kalamazoo a household name. Andrea plays a Rickenbacker 4003 bass with the lacquered fingerboard and the triangle fret markers. This is the classic Ric bass. One thing I especially like about their rendition of this classic hit is how they end the song – on a Dm9 chord – very nice.

To hear the hit by Santana, which by the way was a cover, and the original by Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac, see my blog entry from March 5, 2010.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Impressions: People Get Ready

In 1965, Curtis Mayfield and The Impressions had a #3 hit record with “People Get Ready” our Spiritual Sunday selection. It is one of those songs that is akin to “This Train,” “Morning Train,” “Death’s A Little Black Train,” and others that relates a spiritual message to a train ride. This was the biggest hit for The Impressions and is generally considered their best known song. The band was only a trio at the time they recorded “People Get Ready” and consisted of Mayfield, Sam Gooden, and Fred Cash.

Rolling Stone placed “People Get Ready” at 24th in the “Greatest Songs of All Time.” It also was chosen by twenty music professionals (including Paul McCartney, Hal David, Brian Wilson) as one of the “Top Ten Songs of All Time.”

Saturday, August 21, 2010

The Turtles Present The Battle Of The Bands

Today’s album feature is not what I would call a great album or even a good album, but rather an interesting album. 1968’s “The Turtles Present the Battle of the Bands” was the fifth LP for The Turtles.  This particular LP showcased the humor of Mark Volman and Howard Kaylan. Later known as The Phlorescent Leech and Eddie and Flo and Eddie, Volman and Kaylan later brought their brand of humor to Franks Zappa’s Mothers of Invention before branching out on their own.

“The Battle of the Bands” was a concept album where every song was supposedly recorded by different bands – although all of the bands were actually The Turtles. While the LP only peaked at #128 in the US, it produced band’s last two Top 40 singles: “Elenore” and “You Showed Me” both charting at #6. I bought the LP as a cutout in the early 70s.

Elenore / Surfer Dan

Originally written as a tongue and cheek response to White Whale Records’ insistence that the band have another hit on the scale of “Happy Together,” the horrendous (but humorous) lyrics didn’t matter and the production was great. The song was credited on the album to Howie, Mark, Johnny, Jim & Al. Mimicking The Beatles, the song ends on a 6th chord.

You got a thing about you
I just can't live without you
I really want you, Elenore, near me
Your looks intoxicate me
Even though your folks hate me
There's no one like you, Elenore, really

Elenore, gee I think you're swell
And you really do me well
You're my pride and joy, et cetera
Elenore, can I take the time
To ask you to speak your mind
Tell me that you love me better

I really think you're groovy
Let's go out to a movie
What do you say, now, Elenore, can we?
They'll turn the lights way down low
Maybe we won't watch the show
I think I love you, Elenore, love me

The flip of the single was a take-off of the surf music style of Jan & Dean, the Beach Boys, Ronnie and the Daytonas, and others. Credited to The Crossfires, the song is a parody of The Turtles who started out as The Crossfires who recorded surf music.

Live Version of Elenore

From the Kraft Music Hall in September 1968, the most amazing thing about this video is the drumming of Johnny Barbata. It was his last album with the band before joining the Jefferson Airplane/Starship.

Oh Daddy

Credited as the LA Bust ’66, it is difficult to classify the type of music on this song. There was a tinge of the vocal bands such as the Mamas and Papas and Spanky and Our Gang, but also a little bit of the Bakersfield sound of Buck Owens. But then, there is a Dixieland break in the middle and the talking vocals toward the end. I don’t know what it is, but I like it.


Listed as The Fabulous Dawgs, “Buzzsaw” starts out like Memphis instrumental ala Bill Black’s Combo and Booker T & the MGs. Again, so different I can classify it.

You Showed Me

One of the first songs written by Gene Clark and Roger McGuinn, “You Showed Me” never appeared on an original Columbia album by The Byrds, but was featured on Together Records’ issue of the Preflyte LP in 1969. It was The Turtles last Top 40 hit. I love the synth on this. The alias used on the album for this song was Nature’s Children. It is a great example of the singing prowess of Flo and Eddie.

Friday, August 20, 2010

George Harrison: It Don't Come Easy

Recorded in several takes in 1970, Ringo Starr’s hit record “It Don’t Come Easy” was originally sung by George Harrison during some preliminary mixes prior to Ringo adding his lead. The George Harrison rendition is very similar to the final released version and features the same takes and basically the same musicians. Additionally, Ringo's version included a new mix of the same backing tracks.

The original working title for the song was “You Gotta Pay Your Dues” and featured Harrison on guitar, Starr on drums, Klaus Voorman on bass, Stephen Stills on piano, and Mal Evans playing the tambourine. Badfinger’s Pete Ham and Tom Evans were later brought in for backing vocals and can be heard on the Harrison version singing “Hare Krishna” at one point in the song.

On Harrison’s demo the rhythm guitar is run through a Leslie rotating speaker at high speed (actually it sounds like he is using two Leslie cabinets) – an effect which can be achieved by using a chorus pedal or two these days – for a lot less cost and less hassle. Although not credited as a coauthor of the tune, it has been rumored that George Harrison contributed to the writing of “It Don’t Come Easy.” Richard Starkey (AKA Ringo Starr) is solely credited as the writer.

Ringo’s Hit Version

The tracks for both George’s and Ringo’s are basically the same, but the mix is different and Ron Cattermole’s horns have been added for the final mix. I never noticed it before, but the Badfinger “Hare Krishna” chant in the guitar break is still there, but potted down in the mix.

Unless you listen for it, you’ll never know it’s there. I’ve had this song since 1971 when it was released and never ever noticed it before hearing the George Harrison version. I guess George felt the need to do a little proselytizing on this number. The single charted at #5 in the UK and #4 in the US.

It was a single only release until Apple included it on Ringo’s greatest hits compilation “Blast from your Past.” Besides the US version of “Let it Be” released on Apple/United Artists, “Blast from your Past” is the only other Apple record with a red apple label.

It was also the last new LP to be released by Apple in the 1970s. Although the label continued to be used by EMI for existing Apple releases, no new Apple releases were issued by EMI until the 1990s. In the early 70s, Capitol began pressing all of the Beatles LPs that formerly were released under the Capitol brand on Apple; however, with the dissolution of the Apple label, these Beatles LPs reverted back to the original Capitol branded pressings.

The first post Apple issues were on the orange Capitol label and were subsequently replaced the next year with the more prolific purple Capitol version. Beatles albums on the early 70s lime green Capitol label (prior to the Apple releases) and the mid 70s orange Capitol label (after the Apple releases) are often worth more than the black Capitol label pressings from the 1960s. The value of these issues are inflated because so few were pressed on either label variation.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Thomas Dolby: She Blinded Me With Science

This week’s TV Thursday tune is currently featured in the latest Swiffer commercial. While the song performed poorly in new wave artist Thomas Dolby’s homeland, it was a #5 hit in the US and has the status of a one hit wonder in late 1982. Dolby's real name is Thomas Morgan Robertson, although he has adopted the middle of Dolby - a name he was given in college due to his interest in music and recording.

The song features sequencers, synthesizers, and samplers – oh my. One of the sampled voices was that of Magnus Pyke. Familiar to British TV audiences, Pyke was a well known scientist that was able to put complex scientific constructs into layman’s terms. He was also very energetic and frequently waived his arms incessantly – much like he does in the accompanying video.

US 12-Inch Mix

Originally, Capitol Records had released Dolby’s second LP “The Golden Age of Wireless”; however, with the popularity of the single and the subsequent Mini LP (EP) – the album was repacked with “Science” and sales of the album soared.

The original cover of "The Golden Age of Wireless" without "Science"

The original version of the album on the Harvest label only sold 40,000 copies in the US; however, the repackaged version on Capitol went gold in less than a year. I have both copies, the Mini LP, as well as the 12” promotional single in my collection.

The "Blinded By Science" Mini LP

New cover of "The Golden Age of Wireless" with "Science"

Dolby wasn’t the only Harvest artist that Capitol did some maneuvering to attract US audiences – they remixed Duran Duran’s “Rio” album and also moved it to the Capitol brand.

Recent Live Version

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Amboy Dukes: Journey To The Center Of The Mind

I wanted to do a something a little different for today and feature an original version of a song along side of a remake by the same artist. I think I’ll call this feature “Then . . . and Later.”


In this case, The Amboy Dukes recorded “Journey to the Center of the Mind” in 1968. The song was the title cut of their second album and it was the band’s only charting single. It peaked at #16 on Billboard’s Hot 100. Oh yeah, the madman on the Gibson Byrdland guitar is none other than a young Ted Nugent. I know this song had become a classic when I heard a Muzak version of it a Ponderosa restaurant in the late 1980s.


Here’s a version from 2009 of a reconstituted version of The Amboy Dukes for the Detroit Music Awards. It shows that even after 41 years, Ted and his buddies still can rock and roll. Although not as tight as the original, it is still worth a listen.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Crooked Oak: Hold The Lantern High

From a private UK pressing, Crooked Oak’s 1976 LP “From Little Acorns Grow” contains a variety of traditional and traditionally inspired tunes. The band featured Steve Evans (guitars, mandolins, & vocals), Paul Rogley (whistles, mandolina, cittern) and Barry Walker (fiddle).

Kicking off the LP is our feature cut, “Hold the Lantern High.” Written by Steve Evans to introduce Tom Haddway’s BBC2’s play, “Bless Thee Jackie Madison,” the song was inspired by the practices of Northumberland fishing villages prior to the time of the construction of permanent harbor lights. To welcome the fishermen home, the wives and children of the men would stand on the beach and welcomed the men back home – hence the invitation to “Hold the Lantern High.”

By the way, the mandolina played by Paul Rogley is the smallest of the mandolin family tuned a fourth higher than a normal mandolin. Tunings for mandolin family instruments are listed below.

Mandolina:c' c'g' g'd'' d''a'' a''
Mandolin:g gd' d'a' a'e'' e''
Electric Mandolin
(4 string):
Mandolinetto:g gd' d'a' a'e'' e''
Mandriola:G g gd d' d'a a' a'e' e" e"
Mandola:c cg gd' d'a' a'
Octave Mandolin:G Gd da ae' e'
Irish Bouzouki
(mandolin tuning):
Irish Bouzouki
(drone tuning):
G gd d'a ad' d'
Mandocello:C CG Gd da a

Monday, August 16, 2010

Counting Crows: Meet On The Ledge

This weekend Fairport Convention held their annual Cropredy Festival near Banbury in Oxfordshire, England. I would love to go sometime, but doubt if I ever get to the festival let alone to the British Isles. My brother Chuck has attended thrice, but he also has seen Fairport Convention many times stateside. I’ve seen them only once in Pittsburgh in 2006. They are worth seeing.

For our (late) Monday cover, I am featuring Counting Crows rendition of Fairport’s most popular tune: “Meet on the Ledge.” There are a number of covers available on YouTube, but this is best cover I’ve heard thus far. It was recorded live in Wellmont, New Jersey on October 29, 2008. The song was composed by Richard Thompson.

It is my understanding that as the Cropredy Festival was winding down Fairport urged fans worldwide to join in singing “Meet on the Ledge” at 11:45 GMT. I was otherwise occupied at the moment and unavailable to burst out in song, but I was there in spirit. Here’s the original from Fairport’s second album “What We Did on our Holidays” featuring:

Iain Matthews – vocals;
Sandy Denny – vocals and piano;
Richard Thompson – lead guitar;
Simon Nicol – rhythm guitar;
Ashley Hutchings – bass;
Martin Lamble – drums.

Simon Nicol sings lead on the tune which has become their de facto last song of a show. I sang along with everyone else in the house when I saw them in Pittsburgh on June 24, 2006. For my photos of the show see http://www.owston.com/fairport/index.htm.

Fairport Convention on their Acoustic Tour 2006 doing "Meet on the Ledge"

Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Byrds: Turn! Turn! Turn!

“Turn! Turn! Turn! (to Everything there is a Season)” was a number one record for The Byrds in 1965 and the title of their second LP. The song was adapted from the third chapter of Ecclesiastes in 1959 by Pete Seeger who added a few words and rearranged some of Solomon’s original to fit the music better. Seeger has consistently donated 45% of the writer’s royalties to the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions because his contribution to the song was the melody and only six words.

Roger McGuinn had arranged the tune for a 1963 recording by Judy Collins. The suggestion of The Byrds recording the tune came from McGuinn’s future wife Delores who requested that The Byrds sing the tune. While Collin’s version was done in a typical folk style, the Byrds’ rendition came out in the folk-rock style which propelled it to the top of the charts.

Solo Version by Roger McGuinn

This is an interesting look at what Roger McGuinn is doing on the Electric 12-string Rickenbacker guitar. If you notice closely his is using both a flat pick and finger picks – this takes coordination.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Crosby & Nash: BBC Concert

I have to commend EMI Records for having their own YouTube site and provide an opportunity for their associated acts to have YouTube presence. Unfortunately, Warner Music Group has been extremely active in keeping Warner Brothers, Elektra, Asylum, Atlantic, and associated labels off of YouTube. Should a person post a Warners video, it gets pulled immediately. There have been times I would have loved to have featured a number of songs and albums, but I’ve been unable to find the recordings.

Therefore, today I am not featuring an album but rather a TV concert from the BBC. I wanted to feature the first Crosby, Stills, and Nash LP as it is one of my favorite albums of all time, but alas I couldn’t as the copyright police are out in force. In the process, I found a series of videos from a BBC concert from September 11, 1970. I have had the opportunity to see Crosby and Nash and Crosby, Stills, and Nash both in Huntington, WV in the late 1970s. I also experienced CSN in Charleston, WV in 1982. All three were great shows as one would expect.

Marrakesh Express

The song is based on Graham Nash’s 1966 train ride from Casablanca to Marrakesh. He started the trip in the first class berth, but being bored he we to associate with the common folk and “ducks, pigs, and chickens.” I wonder what they were doing with pigs on a train in a predominantly Muslim country as pork is not halal and is extremely forbidden. Here’s a little Moroccan Roll – sorry, I had to get that pun in there.


David Crosby wrote this song about three women with he had relationships (gee, wasn’t that “Triad?”) with whom he compared to Queen Guinnevere. Like “Marrakesh Express,” it is from the debut album by Crosby, Stills, and Nash. The harmony between Crosby and Nash on this song is beautiful. Crosby tunes his guitar as EBDGAD. The time signature changes as well. Crosby uses 4/4, 8/8, ¾, 11/8 – I can’t even imagine 11/8. I played 12/8 – but that is just a series of four triples. As for 11/8 – too strange for me.

A Tree With No Leaves/Song With No Words
Teach Your Children

An instrumental followed by one of the better known CSN&Y tunes from 1970’s “Déjà Vu” album – another LP I would like to feature. The song was inspired by a photo of a angry child holding a toy grenade in Central Park. “Teach Your Children” peaked at #16 on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart.

The Lee Shore

One of David Crosby’s nautical songs that appeared on CSN&Y’s live “Four-Way Street” album.

Traction In The Rain

Another David Crosby tune from his LP “If I Could Only Remember My Name.”

A great concert and I hope you liked it.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Slade: Cum On Feel The Noize

Today’s Friday First selection is the original version of a song that was the biggest hit for American metal band: Quiet Riot. While “Cum on Feel the Noize” was the fourth number one record for Slade in the UK, it barely scratched the surface on the American charts peaking at #98. Although Slade was constantly in the American rock press in the early to mid 70s, they failed to gain anything more than a cult following until their 1983 top 20 hit “Run Run Away.”

When Slade’s version was released in 1973, it debuted at the #1 slot on the British charts. The last time that had occurred was with the Beatles’ “Get Back” in 1969. Although Slade was not well known to the American public, the band had lasting effects on American rockers. Members of Kiss, Cheap Trick, and Quiet Riot point to Slade as a defining influence in their careers. Slade was known for their anthemic song writing, their stage show, and the unique vocals of Noddy Holder. All are seen on this live version for British television.

Studio Version in Stereo

Quiet Riot – Remake

In 1983, Los Angeles heavy metal band Quiet Riot released their highly successful LP “Metal Health.” The first single, variously known as “Bang your Head (Metal Health)” and “Metal Health (Bang your Head),” propelled to the #31 slot on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart. “Bang your Head” was immediately followed the album’s second single, “Cum on Feel the Noize,” a Top 5 hit in the US and certified gold single.

The “Metal Health” album was Quiet Riot’s best selling LP. It was a number one LP in the US, UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. In the US, the album sold in excess of 6 million copies and was certified sextuple platinum status – a feat that Quiet Riot could never duplicate even though they recorded a second Slade hit, “Mama Weer All Crazee Now” for their follow-up LP, “Condition Critical.”

Thursday, August 12, 2010

David Bowie: The Jean Genie

Back in May 2009, Levis issued an ad campaign featuring the David Bowie single “The Jean Genie” as the ad’s primary vehicle. Based on the riff used by the Yardbirds on their interpretation of Bo Diddley’s “I’m a Man,” the song peaked at #2 in the UK where it was surpassed by a song using the same riff – The Sweet’s “Block Buster.” In the US, neither recording did well with Bowie only reaching #71 followed by The Sweet at #73.

It has an infectious rhythm that pulls from its primal rock and roll roots. I purchased the single upon its release in 1972 because it was slated to be a single only release in the US. It remained so until the following year when it appeared on Bowie’s “Alladin Sane” LP. The harmonica was also played by Bowie. The late Mick Ronson of the Spiders from Mars handles lead guitar chores.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

A Band Named For A Cat: Procol Harum

As I have often mentioned those who have exposed me to various musicians and musical styles, I again invoke the name of Jim Roach of WDVE. Jim’s Sunday night program that featured 3 hours of music from one artist was listened to religiously, taped completely, and later played enthusiastically. At the time Jim featured Procol Harum, I was familiar with their two biggest American singles and had just received a copy of their fourth album, “Home.” The show provided me an opportunity to expand my horizons of a band that happened to be named for a cat.

Yes, believe it or not, Procol Harum was named for a friend’s Burmese cat. A bit stranger than a band being named Procol Harum is the fact that someone named a cat after a poor Latin translation of “beyond these things.” The band burst on the scene with a classically influenced sound at the same time as their American label mates, the Moody Blues. Incidentally, Procol Harum may have been the first band to incorporate a lyricist (Keith Reid) as full member of the band – this was two years before King Crimson did the same with Pete Sinfield.

A Whiter Shade of Pale

Released in 1967, Procol Harum's best known recording, “A Whiter Shade of Pale,” was based on Bach’s Cantata #140. The LP and single were the only Procol Harum American releases on London Record’s subsidiary label -- Deram.

London (Decca UK, Ltd.) was given the opportunity to release the album in the US after Capitol waived its rights. The LP was originally released in the UK by Regal Zonophone, one of Capitol’s sister EMI labels. A&M picked up the option beginning with the single “Homburg” and continued as their US label through 1972. I found this album in the cut out bin in the mid 70s.

“A Whiter Shade of Pale” predominately features the Hammond B3 organ of Matthew Fisher and the piano and vocals of Gary Brooker. The combination of keyboard instruments proved that you could have piano and organ without a church service. It was a number one hit in the UK and peaked at #5 in the US and may be the only song most people think of when they hear the name of the band.

Here’s a live version from December 2003; it was organist Matthew Fisher's last concert performance with the band. His use of glissando effects and the speeding up and slowing down of the Leslie rotating speaker (that big cabinet to his right) is awesome.

A year after leaving the band a second time, Matthew Fisher sued Gary Brooker for 50% of the music composer’s royalties for the song (25% of the writer’s share). From 1967, only Brooker and Reid were credited with writing “Whiter Shade of Pale” and each received 50% of the writing royalties. One would be hard pressed, however, not to see Fisher’s contribution to the tune.

The court ruled in Fisher’s favor, but only granted him 40% of the composer’s royalties (20% of the total writing royalties). In addition, the royalties could only be back dated to when he originally filed suit - 2005.

In an appeal by Brooker, the court upheld the writer’s credits for Fisher, but denied him any royalties as he had waited 38 years to file. Fisher appealed to the House of Lords in 2009 and that body upheld the original ruling reinstating Fisher’s right to receive royalties from 2005.


Released also in 1967, Procol Harum’s follow-up single “Homburg” was not originally issued on an album, but later appeared on several compilations. The song was criticized for sounding like their previous single, but it managed to score a top ten hit in Britain; however, it only charted at #34 in the US. It is not generally known in America and I heard it first on Jim Roach’s show back in 1973.

I always felt that Alice Cooper ripped off part of “Homburg’s” verse melody for his 1975 hit “Only Women.” By the way, a “homburg” is a felt hat with a crease down the crown’s center and a curled brim. It was named for Bad Homburg in Hesse Darmstadt, Germany where King Edward VII frequented the town's spa.

A Salty Dog

The title cut from their nautical themed third album, “A Salty Dog” is one of my favorite pieces by the band. Matthew Fisher produced this LP - his last with the band until he later rejoined in 1991.

There was something about this nautical theme that I really liked. I didn’t know at the time I first heard this tune, but my third great-grandfather was a decorated British naval officer during the Napoleonic wars and the War of 1812. My love of this song must have been something genetic.

A Salty Dog: William Owston (1778-1857) Royal Navy Master

I will have to commend the creator of the video by synchronizing the lyrics to corresponding scenes from “The Bounty.” Very appropriate – indeed.

Nothing That I Didn’t Know

Procol Harum’s fourth LP “Home” was the first album by the band that I ever owned.  When their albums are discussed, it is generally not considered one of their best; however, I feel that it is a masterpiece that shows a variety of musical styles to which the band was able to adapt.  I will agree that the cover art is not the best and this may be why the album is largely ignored.

I love this very sad, sad song. While it has a depressing theme, it shows that they can almost be an acoustic band as well as a classically progressive band. Bassist Chris Copping plays organ in place of Fisher who exited the band prior to this LP.

Simple Sister

Procol Harum’s fifth LP “Broken Barricades” from 1971 is usually hailed as their best – it rocks. Guitarist Robin Trower really shines and shows that he has begun to develop the style that would be exhibited on his solo albums and with BLT over the next 15 years.

This was my third PH album. I had an 8-track version of it that I got with a number of other tapes after I bought a 1976 Chevy Monte Carlo loaded with an 8-track player.


The second best known Procol Harum tune was a song that originally appeared on their debut LP in 1967, but was not released as a single until 1972. The ’72 version was a live recording with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra at the Northern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium in Edmonton, Alberta. The live orchestra really makes this tune. According to Keith Reid, it was one of the few Procol Harum songs in which the music was composed prior to the authoring of the lyrics.

“Procol Harum Live with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra” was the band’s best selling LP and was their only RIAA certified gold album in the US. The single placed at #16 on Billboard’s Hot 100 Charts, while it only reached #22 in their homeland.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

McGuinnes Flint: When I'm Dead And Gone

My brother called me the other night and encouraged me to listen to this cut he found on YouTube of the band McGuinness Flint. He described it like the solo work of Ronnie Lane – original songs done in a traditional feel. I believe he hit the nail on the head on this one.

When I looked up the song “When I’m Dead and Gone,” I immediately recognized the tune which meant I either remembered it from when it got played on the radio or I had a copy of the song. I think it is the latter and believe it is on a Capitol Records sampler from 1970 or 71 that I got through the Capitol Records Club of which I was a member at the time.

It’s a great little tune that has mandolin, slide guitar, and kazoo – what is there not to like? McGuinnes Flint, much like Fleetwood Mac was named for the band’s rhythm section. Bassist Tom McGuinnnes had played with Manfred Mann and drummer Hughie Flint, like hundreds of other British musicians (such as Mick Fleetwood and John McVie), apprenticed under John Mayall. The band also consisted of keyboardist Denny Coulson and talented multi-instrumentalists Benny Gallagher and Graham Lyle who would depart and form their own group known as, what else, Gallagher and Lyle.

Owing to the different musical tastes of the UK and US, the song performed quite differently in each country. In their homeland, “When I’m Dead and Gone” peaked at #2. In the US, it got some airplay; however, it was only enough to propel the song to #47 on the Hot 100 Charts.

The song was composed by a nascent Gallagher and Lyle and several recreations of this song were recorded by a dozen artists including Phil Everly (of the Everly Brothers), Status Quo, Adam Faith, and even Def Leppard.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Camper Van Beethoven: Pictures of Matchstick Men

Last week, we looked at the Spectres, which eventually became known as Status Quo. I got thinking about Status Quo’s music and if anyone had attempted to cover one of their biggest hits – notably “Pictures of Matchstick Men.” In 1989, Camper Van Beethoven released their recording from “Key Lime Pie.”

This cover, while failing to chart on the mainstream Billboard Hot 100 chart, it scored a #1 slot on the “Modern Rock” chart. I am sure violinist Jonathan Segal is a much better player than is referenced in the song’s intro. In fact, during the middle of the song you can hear his ability to play well. That doesn’t stop me from thinking that the intro fiddle part sounds much like me playing the violin. The guitar at the end is also reminiscent of Richard Thompson’s style during his Fairport days.

The Original

While I didn’t buy this single on Janus Records when it was released in 1968, I did however buy “Down the Dustpipe,” which I heard while in Chicago during the summer of 1970. “Pictures of Matchstick Men” was their only US hit charting at #12.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Peter, Paul, & Mary: If I Had My Way

Last week I featured Robert Randolph’s “If I had my Way” and noted how, like a mixed metaphor, he confused the stories of Samson and Daniel. Here’s another version of the song with the correct lyrics. Recorded for the Smothers Brothers Show in 1968, Peter, Paul, and Mary do a raucous version of “If I had my Way.” Peter Yarrow takes the lead on this one and has help from Noel Paul Stookey and the late Mary Travers.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Genesis: Nursery Cryme

My first exposure to the band Genesis came in the summer 1973 when I discovered that suburban Pittsburgh radio station WZUM was then playing album rock selections from 4 PM until sign-off. The latest the station could stay on the air was during the month of June when sundown was 8:45 PM.

Earlier in the day. a variety of ethnic music was featured until the late afternoon formatting switch. While the term ethnic music may conjure up a variety of images, in Pittsburgh it meant anything from Eastern Europe – Slovak, Ukrainian, Hungarian, Russian, Polish, and other traditional music from what collectively became known as the Eastern Bloc.

I found WZUM's new format change by accident as it was near at the end of the dial at 1590 kHz and its 1000 watt signal from its location in the Pittsburgh suburb of Carnegie was difficult to receive in the East Boroughs where we lived. If I could hold my tongue just right while tuning my radio, I could hear their signal with as much clarity as one could expect from a station that had the power equivalent of 10 light bulbs.

During the summer of 1973 when I got my first car a 1964 Ford Fairlane 500, I was looking for something to break the monotony of Pittsburgh’s three top 40 stations: KQV, 13Q (WKTQ), and WIXZ. For some unfathomable reason, the program directors at these three outlets had the misconception that only three songs existed. Those three were the Edgar Winter Group’s “Frankenstein,” Focus’ “Hocus Pocus,” and Deep Purple’s “Smoke on the Water.” While those songs were all classics in their own right, one could not escape their pervasive influence on the Steel City’s airwaves and these songs grew a little thin after hearing them over and over and over.

Only having an AM radio in my car at the time, I searched for other alternatives when I stumbled upon WZUM’s abbreviated AOR format. I can remember hearing “Nursery Cryme,” Genesis’ third album, for the first time when I was washing my car one Saturday afternoon. Although the album was two years old at that point, It got enough airplay that summer. At some point, I went out and bought the album and for a while it was one of my favorite albums during my prog rock period.

Two songs from this LP got the majority of the airplay: “The Musical Box” and “The Return of the Giant Hogweed.” My feature choice from the LP is the later which was a semi-apocalyptic story of the giant hogweed plant that had been introduced from Russia during the Victorian Era and had nearly taken over the countryside. In the song, the hogweed reigns victorious of the human race.

During 1975, I saw Genesis for their “Lamb Lies Down on Broadway” tour. It remains the best concert performance I’d ever seen. The choice of venues, Pittsburgh’s Syria Mosque, added in the enjoyment of this spectacle of sight, sound, and the theatrics of lead singer Peter Gabriel. At the end of the evening, the band returned to the stage and finished off the evening with an encore presentation of “Return of the Giant Hogweed.”

Peter Gabriel in one of his many stage personas

Live Version

The following is a 1972 live recording of “Return of the Giant Hogweed” which shows how tight this band was live. The song begins with unison riffs played by guitarist Steve Hackett and keyboardist Tony Banks. Hackett uses two handed hammer-on techniques that would become a staple of metal guitarists in the 1980s. Banks begins the song with Hohner Pianet that is played through a fuzz tone. Later in the song, he switches the fuzz tone off for the electronic piano sound during the interlude. Banks primary instrument for “Hogweed” is the Hammond B-3 organ.

The rhythm is handled by bassist Mike Rutherford and Phil Collins (sporting hair). Collins , who would replace Gabriel as vocalist and take Genesis into new directions, provides backing vocals. Gabriel shows his vocal acumen and a showmanship ala the schools of Roger Daltry, Mick Jagger, and Robert Plant that rivals the best of front men anywhere.

The Entire Album

In its entirety, here's a YouTube playlist of “Nursery Cryme” in order and uninterrupted - as those DJ sorts used to say.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Mark James: Suspicious Minds

The other night I was watching one of TNT’s newest shows, “Memphis Beat,” and lead character Detective Dwight Hendricks (played by Jason Lee) finished off the show by singing Elvis Presley’s last number one record, “Suspicious Minds.” That got me thinking about the original version of the tune and how it would fit the First Friday theme. The song was written by Mark James under the pseudonym Francis Zambon in 1968. James also recorded the tune under his own name.

Elvis released the song after his 1968 comeback TV special that reminded American’s of the King of Rock ‘N Roll’s influence on the artists that eclipsed his popularity in the mid 1960s. The song was recorded in Memphis at American Sound Studios along with his hits “In the Ghetto” and “Kentucky Rain.” Everyone curl your upper lip and repeat after me, “Thank you, thank you very much.” In a couple weeks, we’ll honor the 33rd anniversary of Elvis’ death on August 16, 1977. For more on that, see my January 8th post. “Elvis has left the building.”