Saturday, January 29, 2011

Grand Funk Railroad: Mean Mistreater

Since I was doing the “honey do” thing today, I am a little late with my bubbling under hit for this Saturday. Grand Funk Railroad’s single from their “Live Album” was “Mean Mistreater.” I got this album in January 1971 after my mom signed me up for a year of albums from the Capitol Record Club. Grand Funk’s “Live Album” was the first live album I earned and the first album from a record club.

The single didn’t make it to the top 40 only charting at #47, but was my favorite cut off of the album. It features Mark Farner on vocals and the Fender Rhodes Electric Piano. Shortly after this live recording, the band enlisted keyboardist Craig Frost to be a sideman on the road. He later was given the opportunity to play on the band’s 1972 album “Phoenix.” By 1973 and the release of “We’re American Band,” Frost had become a full fledged member of Grand Funk Railroad.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Sugarloaf: West Of Tomorrow

Now I know many of us can remember where we were when we heard a piece of important news or even heard a hit record for the first time, but I may be one of the few that can remember hearing a flipside for the very first time. It was August 1970 and our family had returned from a trip to Chicago visiting relatives. On the return trip, I clutched my transistor radio to my ear and listed to top 40 stations all the way back home.

I can remember hearing a number of songs that I liked as we drove across Indiana and Ohio. After we returned to Pittsburgh, I set out for the local record store and purchased three singles: Chicago’s “25 or 6 to 4,” Status Quo’s “Down the Dustpipe,” and Sugarloaf’s “Green Eyed Lady.” A few weeks later, my brother Chuck had come back home from Lexington, KY and I played for him the three singles that I added to my collection.

One simple question changed the way I listened to singles from that point forward. He asked. “Well, what do the flipsides sound like?” My reply, “I dunno.” Then he suggested, “You should always listen to the flipside as it may be better than the hit.” So we flipped the records and one of the three I really liked and that was the flip of Sugarloaf’s “Green Eyed Lady” – “West of Tomorrow.” Now, it may be your first opportunity to her this song as we feature it as our Friday Flipside.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Cars: Let's Go

It’s TV Thursday and one of the latest Target commercials uses the Cars’ top 20 hit from 1979 – “Let’s Go.” It was the first single release from their second LP “Candy-O.” It’s a great tune from a band categorized as “New Wave” in the late 70s. This is a song I remember playing at WAMX in the year and half that I worked as a part-timer at that station. It’s a great little tune despite its peak position of 14.

Demo Version of “I Love the Night Life Baby”

Before “Candy-O” was released, the original version of the song was recorded by the Cars under the original title of “I Love the Night Life Baby.” Before the hand claps and the “Let’s Go” vocals were added to the song (ala the Routers), Ric Ocasek sang lead on his composition. For the album, the vocal duties were turned over to bassist Benjamin Orr. There are also some extra keyboards parts. In all, it is basically the same arrangement otherwise.

I haven’t been able to find the process of how these changes occurred, but possibly their producer, Roy Thomas Baker, made the decision. Your guess is as good as mine. It is a nice rendition of the future hit.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Christie: Yellow River

When today’s one hit wonder was released in 1970, I thought for sure that Christie was an American band. “Yellow River” just sounded American or even Canadian; however, Jeff Christie’s band was from Leeds, Yorkshire, England. The original lineup of the band that supported this one hit wonder was Christie on bass and vocals, Vic Elms on guitar, and drummer Michael Blakley.

Notice, I said Christie “supported” “Yellow River.” For it was not Christie who performed instrumentally on this recording. Prior to Christie's release, songwriter Jeff Christie gave “Yellow River” to the Tremeloes. Although having recorded the song, The Tremeloes passed on releasing it as single. Additionally, they gave the backing tracks to Christie who added his own vocals and voila, the hit we all know and love.

The song was a number one hit record in the UK and several other countries. This American sounding tune didn’t fare as well in the States. It only peaked at #23 and may have been the song that stayed on the charts longer than any other during 1970.

The only thing this song is missing is a banjo. Yes a banjo. Think of some of the other top hits that utilized the instrument that is at home in bluegrass recordings. Some of the songs I can remember include, but are not limited to, the following: More banjo please.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Anders Hagberg & Eivør Pálsdóttir: Stenristarna

Last week when I was looking for Nordic folk music, I stumbled upon Anders Hagberg's and Eivør Pálsdóttir's performance of “Stenristarna.” Hagberg, from Sweden, plays flute on his composition while the vocal chores are articulated by Eivør Pálsdóttir.

Pálsdóttir is a native of the Faroe Islands which is province of the Kingdom of Denmark that lies in the North Atlantic midway between the north of Scotland and Iceland. Although trained as a classical violinist, Eivør Pálsdóttir’s voice shines on this cut that evokes distant genetic memories of my Viking ancestors. I hope you like this title cut from Hagberg's 2005 release.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Chet Atkins & Leo Kottke: Sleep Walk

Late start tonight on this blog post – I was very busy last evening and fell asleep before doing the post. Today’s Monday cover is one I discovered a couple of months ago of guitar greats Chet Atkins and Leo Kottke doing the classic Santo and Johnny hit from 1959: “Sleep Walk.” This recording comes from 1988.

The interesting guitar that Chet is playing is a Brazilian made Del Vecchio Dinâmico nylon string resonator guitar. The Del Vecchios have a beautiful tone; however, from what I have read is that the more recent models typically have intonation and action problems. If one is in decent enough shape, a good guitar tech can get one to play well. Del Vecchio also made steel string resonator models.

Unfortunately, as Chet Atkins friend Earl Klugh discovered, It is sometimes easier to have a good luthier make a Del Vecchio copy. Speaking of copies, Conrad Guitars made a Del Vecchio copy in the early 1970s. I remember seeing one in a music shop in Huntington, WV. I can’t swear of its quality, but Conrad typically made guitars for department store sales as were many Japanese manufactured instruments of the era.

Casa Del Vecchio Ltda. of São Paulo, Brazil is still in business and only makes one resonator model – a 10 string (five courses) Viola Dinamica Especial. The strings are in five courses and it appears to be of a smaller body than a typical guitar. It is painted a wild green and yellow. I would imagine that the tuning is similar to a 10 string mandolin (C G D A E).

Santo and Johnny’s Original

The Farina brothers took this original instrumental to the top spot for two weeks in 1959. Santo played a triple neck Fender console steel guitar. Each neck had eight strings and the tuning possibilities were endless.

I never tried playing this song until recently, but quickly realized that it was not your typical progression as the fourth chord was a minor rather than a major fourth. It gives “Sleep Walk” its unique character.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Ike & Tina Turner: Walk With Me Lord

Our spiritual Sunday selection travels back to 1974 with Ike and Tina Turner from their album “The Gospel According to Ike and Tina.” Tina does it “nice and easy” on “Walk With Me Lord.” It has the characteristic guitar of Ike Turner and of course the Ikettes on backup vocals.

By the way, that interesting sounding instrument used for a lead is a Stylophone.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

13th Floor Elevators: You're Gonna Miss Me

So many great bands emerged in the 60s not all had a chance to have major Top 40 hits. One such garage band that had regional success in Texas and a near miss of the Top 40 charts was the 13th Floor Elevators from Austin, Texas. Their name was a reference to the superstition that buildings should not have a 13th floor and many had elevators that went from 12 to 14 in the list of available floors.

In early 1966, the band cut two sides with the Houston based Contact label. Within months, International Artists, another Houston label, picked up the record and released it nationally where “You’re Gonna Miss Me” peaked at #55. While the single was much bigger (as everything seems to be) in Texas, its national ranking places it in the bubbling under category. International Records, by the way, was run by Kenny Rogers’ brother Lelan Rogers.

One of the interesting things about this record and the band is the use of an electric jug. Tommy Hall did not blow into his ceramic jug like was done in the jug band era. He, however, produced sounds similar to a human beat box and used the jug to reverberate these noises which were amplified by a microphone.

This may very well be the only single to place in the Top 100 that used an electric jug. I cannot say it was the only one ever to use a jug; however, it may hold that distinction as well. Guitarist Roky Erickson wrote, sang lead, and played harmonica on “You’re Gonna Miss Me.”

Live Version

On this live recording, you can catch Tommy Hall and his electric jug. Unfortunately, the quality in this clip is not the best in the world.

Friday, January 21, 2011

The Byrds: What's Happening?!?!

Our Friday flipside comes from the very first single I purchased – The Byrds “Mr. Spaceman.” Its flip, an esoteric song written by David Crosby, was titled “What's Happening?!?!” It was the first song solely written by David Crosby to appear on a Byrds LP. The album, by the way, was “Fifth Dimension” – their first not to feature a Dylan song. While the album is somewhat disjointed, it is still one of my favorite albums by the band.

Although “Mr. Spaceman” barely charted in the top 40, “What's Happening?!?!” did not chart. The lyrical content is sparse and the instrumentation is reminiscent of Indian music; however, it is unlike the raga rock of “Eight Miles High” that also appears on the same album.


I don't know who you think you are
I don't know what you're doing here

I don't know what's going on here
I don't know how it's supposed to be

I, I don't have the vaguest notion
Whose it is, what it's all for

I don't know, I'm not crying
Laughin' mostly as you can see

Thursday, January 20, 2011

RIP Don Kirshner

The other night I heard Paul Shaffer mention on the David Letterman show that Don Kirshner had died of a heart attack at Boca Raton, Florida hospital. Kirshner was 76. His early musical success began with song publishing out of the famous Brill Building in New York where he worked with a stable of writers such as Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart, Carole King and Gerry Goffin, Neil Sedaka, and Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil. He also was responsible for launching the careers of artists like Bobby Darin, Carole King, Neil Diamond, and Kansas.

One of the acts associated with Kirshner is The Monkees. Kirsher was hired by Screen Gems to be their musical producer. Launching their careers was the Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart composition “Last Train to Clarksville” which was released to coincide with the first episode of The Monkees’ TV show.

It is one of those songs I remember hearing for the first time. It was in September 1966 and I was staying with my two brothers who were attending Kentucky Christian College in Grayson, KY. We had gone out that evening to record my oldest brother’s radio show at WGOH on Radio Hill out past the end of town. After leaving the station and piling into my brother’s 65 Ford Mustang we headed back to campus listening to some distant AM radio station.

As we came down the hill to Route 60, “Last Train to Clarksville” came on the radio and I asked a question that a 10 year old in 1966 might ask, “Is that a new song by the Beatles?” One of the other students in the car replied, “No, that’s a new group called The Monkees.” None of us had seen the TV show as of yet, but the antics of Mickey Dolenz, Peter Tork, Davy Jones, and Mike Nesmith became a weekly favorite of mine.

Don Kirshner made this possible with the selection of songs for their initial hit records. When I returned to campus as a student seven years later, the students in Jones Hall would huddle around the TV in the common area to watch Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert which played twice a week on a local TV station. Don brought live acts to the living rooms of America and probably best known for this. In honor of his later TV work, here’s The Guess Who from a 1974 episode of Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Marmalade: Reflections of My Life

It’s one hit wonder Wednesday on Reading Between the Grooves and today’s selection is a 1969 hit by the Scottish band Marmalade “Reflections of My Life.” Originally, I had planned to use another song, but Marmalade's hit popped into my head in kitchen last night and I couldn’t get it out of my mind.

It is a classic tune that I am sure most people recognize, but probably couldn’t name the song. This is because it is one of those rare tunes where the title is not part of the song’s hook, which is “All my sorrows; Sad tomorrows; Take me back to my own home.” The title of “Reflections of My Mind” is found twice in the song in verse one and verse two.

Another neat thing about the tune is the use of backwards guitar leads – the recording of the guitar was used for half of the lead in forward mode and the remaining portion it was flipped and played backwards. It wasn’t the first time a backwards guitar lead was used; however, it may be the first hit where the lead is played both forward and reversed mixing both together.

Additionally, the horn parts are reminiscent of The Beatles’ “Penny Lane.” “Reflections of my Life” charted at #10 in the US and was the band’s only Top 40 hit in the US. Their follow-up single “Rainbow” peaked at #51 on the Hot 100.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Ranarim: Maj Vare Välkommen

This last Sunday, I caught a little bit of Fiona Richie’s “Thistle and Shamrock” radio program through National Public Radio. I don’t always get to hear this show, but what I heard this week was a treat as she was featuring “Northern Highlights” – music from the Nordic countries and Finland. I was surprised how much the folk music from Scandinavia was similar to that of the British Isles.

One of the bands that Fiona played was the Swedish folk ensemble Ranarim – which is translated in English is “dewy tapestry.” While I could not find the song from the program, I did find a live recording from a 2008 TV special of “Maj vare välkommen” or “May (as in the month) be Welcome.” I would imagine that living in Sweden during the brutal winters that May would be a welcome experience to those living in a cold climate.

There are a couple of interesting instruments shown in this video. The first is a traditional Swedish keyed fiddle called a “nyckelharpa.” It is much like a cross between a fiddle and a hurdy-gurdy. It is bowed like a fiddle but the notes are stopped when the keys are depressed. Nyckelharpist Niklas Roswall was the 1996 world nyckelharpa champ.

The other interesting instrument is the box that is used by percussionist Christian Svensson. Called a cajon and pronounced as “ka-hone,” this percussive box that can double as a seat produces a wide variety of sounds. In fact, pay attention to the quiet parts of our song and you will swear that there is a bass guitar – no, just a cajon.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Eric Clapton & Billy Preston: Isn't It A Pity

On November 29, 2002, a group of musicians gathered on the first anniversary of the death of George Harrison at the Royal Albert Hall to celebrate the life and music of George Harrison in what was called “The Concert for George.” The title was a play on George Harrison’s own benefit for the Bengali people with his Concert for Bangladesh in 1971. The proceeds from the concert went to George’s own Material World Charitable Foundation.

Today’s cover song is by Eric Clapton and Billy Preston who do a version of George’s song “Isn’t it a Pity” from his “All Things Must Pass” album. Marc Mann plays the slide guitar that is reminiscent of Harrison’s original recording. The young man that looks surprisingly like a young George Harrison playing the acoustic guitar is George’s son Dhani Harrison.

Dhani is playing George’s custom made Zemaitis acoustic guitar with the heart shaped sound hole. The prototype of this guitar was designed by Eric Clapton and was a 12-string that Dhani’s father borrowed when he recorded “My Sweet Lord.” Clapton’s model was named “Ivan the Terrible.” George had six and 12 string models in this style but they were less ornate than Clapton’s prototype.

George Harrison’s Version One

Written during the “White Album” sessions, the song was not used by The Beatles, but would later surface on “All Things Must Pass” and as a double A-sided single along with “My Sweet Lord.” It appeared as the final cut on side one of the album.

George Harrison’s Version Two

George included a second, slower, and shorter version of “Isn’t It A Pity” on “All Things must Pass.” It appears on side four of the three disc set and is not as well known as the initial version.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Mylon LeFevre: You're Still On His Mind

Having grown up in a southern gospel family, Mylon LeFevre was surrounded by religious music and a Christian atmosphere all of his life. When he came of age, he joined his mother, father, uncle, and brother in the LeFevres and was part of one of the biggest gospel music franchises in the south, which when the last LeFevre retired, the group’s interest was sold to bass singer Rex Nelon.

When Mylon was 17 years old, he spent 20 minutes writing the song “Without Him.” Hundreds of artists, including Elvis Presley, recorded this classic and when Mylon received his first royalty check it was for 90 thousand dollars – his first purchase was a Chevy Corvette Sting Ray. By 1968, Mylon recorded his first solo album “Your Only Tomorrow” on the LeFevre family’s own Sing Records label.

In 1969, Mylon was the first Christian rock artist to be signed to a major record label. His first LP, which is variously known as “Mylon” and “We Believe,” was issued on Atlantic Record’s Cotillion subsidiary. Several of the players on the album including Barry Bailey, Dean Dougherty, and Paul Goddard were later members of the Atlanta Rhythm Section. Allen Toussaint produced this effort. One of the songs Mylon penned and recorded on his first major album was “You're Still on His Mind” – our spiritual Sunday selection.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Emerson, Lake, & Palmer: Lucky Man

Being that it is a Saturday, I feature songs that bubbled under the top 40. Today, it is arguably one of my all time favorite songs and comes from the super group Emerson, Lake, and Palmer’s debut, self-titled album. I first heard this album in 1971 when I spent two weeks at my brother Chuck’s home in Lexington, KY. I was exposed to quite a few albums during those weeks and really expanded my musical horizons.

The best tune on the album, “Lucky Man,” was an afterthought as the band needed one more song to fulfill their contract their contract with EG Records in the UK. According to Song Facts, Greg Lake wrote the ballad when he was 12 years old and was experimenting in the studio with it when Keith Emerson fired up his new Moog synthesizer and was experimenting with some sounds not knowing that the tape was running at the time. What was just a bunch of random notes and sounds produced by Emerson would become the song’s signature.

When I went shopping for my first synthesizer in 1981, I had originally been torn between an Arp Odyssey and a Micro-Moog; however, the salesman at the Pied Piper in Huntington, WV suggested that I try a new model – a Sequential Circuits Pro One. It didn’t have the pitch ribbon which I wanted, but it had other features that made the creation of sounds much easier than its contemporary synths at a price much lower than I had expected.

When I got the instrument home two hours later to Beckley, I unpacked it and the first thing I attempted to figure out was the synth lead on “Lucky Man.” I did well as could be expected with the first part of it, but I am no Keith Emerson. When I joined my first band Audio Game, the Pro One came in handy for sound effects for certain songs.

I remember using it as the bomb sounds on the Gap Band’s “You Dropped A Bomb on Me.” It was also employed to do the sequenced synth parts on the Human League’s “Don’t You Want Me Baby.” I think I used it on Soft Cell’s rendition of “Tainted Love.” Later in Second Story, I used it for the portemento parts of REO Speedwagon’s “Riding the Storm Out.” There were probably other songs that I used the Pro-One on, but I also had a Prophet 5 at the time – so my memory of which instrument is a little fuzzy 30 years later.

After I posted this, I got the old Pro-One out of mothballs and started tinkering with it. I was amazed of how much of the solo of “Lucky Man” that I remembered. I didn't think I could do it, but i must have listed to this song 20 times this week and apparently it reopened some finger memory.

Back to “Lucky Man,” the single charted in the US at 48, which qualifies it for our “Bubbling Under” category. The album and single were released on the Atlantic Records’ Cotillion subsidiary. I bought the single in 1971 at the Monroeville Mall (famous for its inclusion as the set for George Romero’s “Dawn of the Dead” sequel to “Night of the Living Dead”).

My friend Rege Franko and I walked from North Versailles to the Monroeville Mall one Saturday and I came back with several singles that included Jackson Brown’s “Doctor My Eyes,” Sailcat’s “Motorcycle Mama,” and a few others including the cut-out single of “Lucky Man.” I still have it in my collection and I ran across the single the other day when I was packing up my singles in anticipation of our move. What memories of a great tune and what a long walk which took us through four towns: North Versailles, East McKeesport, Wilmerding, and Monroeville.

Besides Emerson’s synth parts, I love the mix on Carl Palmer’s drums. Greg Lake who played acoustic guitar and sang lead also overdubbed the lead and bass guitar parts. When performing live, Keith Emerson handled the low end and the guitar lead on his Hammond Organ.

I finally got to see the band live in concert during their “Works” tour in 1977 at the Charleston Civic Center. The venue was too small to include the orchestra, so the trio performed as a trio. A friend of mine at the time had seen the full blown orchestra show in Cincinnati a few days earlier and confessed that the Charleston show had been better. I was down front able to see all of the legendary keyboard antics of Keith Emerson during the show. It was fantastic. I am sorry that I never saw them again.

While their debut album somewhat criticized because its musical style is disjointed, it is an excellent musical expression from three of the world’s best and underrated musicians. The driving force of “Knife Edge” is one of the best of their heavy tunes and was the flip of “Lucky Man.” The prepared piano and piano chops by Keith Emerson and Lake’s acoustic guitar on “Take a Pebble” send chills up and down my spine. Most of the remainder of the album showcases the classical training of Keith Emerson which is amazing when you think of his relatively young age when this LP was produced. If you don’t have this LP, check it out.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Santana: Samba Pa Ti

Our second Friday Flipside feature brings back a Santana tune from their quintuple platinum second LP “Abraxas.” “Samba Pa Ti,” which is translated as “samba for you,” was featured as the flipside for the album’s second single “Oye Como Va.” I became familiar with this piece shortly after the single was released which was a full year before I owned the album.

While the A-side charted at 13 in the US in 1971, the flip did not. “Samba Pa Ti” is a wonderful instrumental that features the guitar wizardry of Carlos Santana. Towards the middle of the song, keyboardist Greg Rolie kicked his Hammond B-3 organ into overdrive and overloaded the amplifier giving its sound a distinct growl. Later the song’s tempo switches into double time and plays at this increased speed until the end of the piece.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Family Of The Year: ChugJug

Every once in a while when you hear a song that is used for a TV commercial bed, it sounds completely different in its entirety than what you experience in a brief 30 seconds. That was the feeling I got regarding today’s TV Thursday selection “ChugJug” by Family of the Year. Often the edit is only a small portion of the original and, as in this case, parts from different segments of the same song are joined together to create the musical effect.

Hailing now from Los Angeles, indie band “Family of the Year” has a much wider audience because “ChugJug” was used as the bed for an Advil commercial – “Take Action – Take Advil.” It is a great little pop tune that during the song’s bridge sounds a little like the songwriting of Paul Simon from a generation ago. Simon and Garfunkel were noted as being one of the main influences of the band.

I am unsure where the unusual title originated as it cannot be found in the song’s lyrics. One does not have to look far to find examples of hit records where the titles were unusual and absent from the lyrics entirely. Two that I can think of offhand are Bob Dylan’s “Rainy Day Women #12 and 35” and Robert Plant’s “Big Log.” There are numerous others and now “ChugJug” joins that list of esoteric song titles.

Advil Commercial

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Ian Gomm: Hold On

Last Wednesday, I began featuring one hit wonders in the middle of the week and from the stats for last week, it appears to be a wise choice. Today’s “One Hit Wonder Wednesday” tune comes from my days as a part-time jock at WAMX in Ashland, KY. Going by the name of Jay Andrews, I held down the Saturday morning and afternoon drive slots and really enjoyed working at this station.

It was my first shot at the Top 40 format – something I would later do at WCIR-FM in Beckley, WV and WOAY-FM in Oak Hill, WV from 1981 to 1987. I worked at 94X from December 1978 to August 1980 and there are a number of songs that remind me of my brief tenure there. One song that sticks out in my mind is Ian Gomm’s top 20 hit “Hold On” from the fall of 1979.

Ian Gomm had played rhythm guitar (and occasionally bass) in Brinsley Schwarz from 1972 to 1975. Gomm had contributed to two one hit wonders in 1979. He also co-wrote fellow Brinsley Schwarz member Nick Lowe’s top 15 hit “Cruel to be Kind” which peaked at 12 in August of that year. “Hold On,” released in the US on Stiff/Epic Records, only made it to 18 in October. While the original title of Gomm’s debut LP was “Summer Holiday,” the album was rechristened in the US as “Gomm with the Wind.”

It is a pity that it didn’t do better as it a great song. It starts out with a driving acoustic guitar which is then joined by one of the most perfect bass lines to hit the top 40. Last week we mentioned Raphael Ravenscroft’s sax work on Gerry Rafferty’s “Baker Street”; he is back with a killer alto saxophone lead that makes this song.

Why wasn’t this song a bigger hit? Probably because of bad promotion on the part of CBS Records' Epic division as Gomm was a Stiff Records’ artist and not a CBS signed artist. Such is the way of show biz.

Album Mix

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Fludd: Cousin Mary

Ah, it’s Traditional Tuesday and time to head across the border to the Great White North – the home of Fludd. “Cousin Mary” received a minimal amount of airplay this side of the border, but was not an American hit. I remember hearing this single from late 1973 – perhaps on CKLW. It was recorded on Fludd’s 1972 album “Fludd . . . On!”; however, it was not originally slated for release as a single.

Daffodil Records, the band’s label, released three singles from the album in 1972, but only one made the Canadian charts. The band went on to record their third album and when production was delayed, Daffodil released the folksy “Cousin Mary,” which became their second best selling single.

Their biggest hit was the skiffle influenced “Turned 21” from their debut album which peaked in Canada at #16 in 1971. “Cousin Mary” topped the charts at #19 in December 1973. While not their biggest record, is probably their best remembered tune.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Robert Palmer: Respect Yourself

I first heard late Robert Palmer during the summer of 1974. This was between my freshman and sophomore year of college and I was back home working my old job at McDonalds in North Versailles, PA.

I had been hired the year before as the store’s first employee, since heading to Kentucky for my education, I was extended the invitation by management to come back and work college breaks – which I did until 1975.

As part of the closing crew that summer, I was often in the back of the store washing the various utensils used that day. Management allowed those in the back to listen to the radio to pass the time. One night, WDVE in Pittsburgh featured Robert Palmer’s debut LP “Sneaking Sally through the Alley.”

I liked his style, but never did purchase this first album. Several years passed and he had a string of hit singles starting with “Every Kind of People” that showcased the influence of American soul music in his vocal stylings.

Today, we feature Robert Palmer doing a cover of a Staple Singers hit “Respect Yourself.” He is accompanied by The Root Canal on this number for Danish Television. Palmer’s single release of the tune peaked at #45 on the UK charts in 1995.

The Staple Singers Version

Written by the late Luther Ingram and Mack Rice, “Respect Yourself” became a signature hit for the Staple Singers in 1971. Although only peaking at #12 on the Hot 100, the song placed at #2 on the Hot Soul Singles Chart the same year. The Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section who played on hits by Aretha Franklin and Wilson Picket were enlisted to play on this classic oldie.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Steve Martin & The Steep Canyon Rangers: Atheists Don't Have No Songs

A little tongue in cheek humor from Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers: “Atheists Don’t Have No Songs.” Recorded during their 2010 Austin City Limits performance, it is probably our most unusual Spiritual Sunday selection. I hope you enjoy it.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Little River Band: Home On A Monday

The Little River Band’s third Australian and second US album “Diamantina Cocktail” produced several hit singles in the US. Much like Capital Records did with The Beatles’ albums in combining several albums together to produce a unique American product. Capitol/EMI did the same thing with “Diamantina Cocktail” combining the Australian release of “After Hours” with the Down Under version of “Diamantina Cocktail.”

The album was released on the Harvest/EMI and the following songs came from the band’s previous album “After Hours”: “Days on the Road,” Another Runaway”; “Everyday of My Life,” and “Take me Home.” Only four songs were carried from the original Australian release of “Diamantina Cocktail”: “Help is on its Way,” “Happy Anniversary,” “Home on Monday,” and “The Inner Light.” Not included on the US version were the original album's selections:  “The Drifter,” “L.A. in the Sunshine,” “Witchery,” “Raelene, Raelene,” and “Changed and Different.”

I can’t judge the American release in comparison to its two Australian parents; however, I do know that I was completely satisfied when I purchased the album. I bought it largely based upon our feature song of the day “Home on Monday” which was played often at WVAF in Charleston, WV when they were operating with the Album Oriented Radio (AOR) format.

The US release include the following singles “Everyday of my Life,” “Help is on its Way,” “Home on Monday,” and “Happy Anniversary.” Although not all were released as singles in the US, only two songs charted on the US top 40: “Help is on its Way” at #14 and “Happy Anniversary” at #16. “Home on a Monday” failed to chart in the US.

As I said earlier, it was the airplay of “Home on a Monday” that prompted me to purchase this album. It’s still a great cut and our bubbling under feature for this Saturday. Here’s a live recording of the tune.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Paul McCartney & Wings: Sally G

Late post today as we were moving into our new digs. Being that it is the first Friday of the new year, our new feature for the beginning of the weekend is Friday Flipsides. Some of the flipsides we will feature were double sided hits, some actually out positioned the “A” side, and some are just really great songs.

In 1974, Paul McCartney and Wings travelled to Nashville to cut a few tunes. This session produced the single “Junior’s Farm” and its flipside “Sally G.” While “Junior’s Farm” peaked at #3, “Sally G” garnered enough airplay to place at #17 on the Hot 100 and #51 on the country charts. It was written after Paul McCartney had gone out to hear some country music in Nashville. Feeling inspired, he quickly penned our feature tune.

It is obviously very heavily influenced by country music and several well known Nashville session musicians play on this cut including Lloyd Green on peddle steel guitar and Vassar Clements and Johnny Gimble on the twin fiddles. I always preferred this side to “Junior’s Farm.”

Issued as Apple 1875, it was McCartney’s last single for The Beatles’ own record label. His follow-up single, “Walking through the Park with Eloise” under the name of The Country Hams was on the EMI label and the subsequent Wings’ single, “Listen to what the Man Said” was released by Capitol Records. For 19 years, “Sally G” was only available as the single release. It did not appear on an album until 1993.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

R.I.P. Gerry Rafferty

Yesterday, I got word that singer Gerry Rafferty had passed away from liver failure. Like many Americans, I was introduced to Rafferty and his musical partner Joe Egan with their 1972 hit as Stealers Wheel.

Stuck in the Middle with You

“Stuck in the Middle with You,” which by the way has been used for several TV commercials, was written as a parody of Bob Dylan’s style. It struck a chord with many folks and is often used when speaking of Rafferty’s career. In March 1973, the song peaked in the US at #6. While it is Joe Egan who handles the lead vocals on the song, Rafferty sings harmony and is its coauthor. I love this tune – especially the lap steel guitar.


Stealers Wheel had one other hit. “Star,” from the band’s 1973’s “Ferguslie Park” album, the album and song was released after Stealers Wheel was reduced to two people – Egan and Rafferty. It only made it to #29 in 1974, but it is a great tune nonetheless.

The accompanying video is a TV appearance with Egan and Rafferty lip syncing to the single’s audio track. It has harmonica and kazoos – for what else could a person ask.

Baker Street

This is one of those rare songs that I remember where I was and what I was doing when I heard it the first time. It was during the spring of 1978 and I was driving from Logan, WV to Huntington on WV Route 10 in my Chevy Vega.

The song came on WKEE-FM as I was driving through Salt Rock and as soon as I hear Raphael Ravenscroft’s alto saxophone (he also played soprano sax on the cut), I immediately pulled off the road to hear the song in its entirety.

Ravenscroft’s solo was responsible for a resurgence of the sales of saxophones and the use of the instrument in popular music. “Baker Street” was a huge hit peaking at #3 in the UK and at #2 in the US. The “City to City” LP charted at #1 on the Billboard album charts. The single was certified gold and the album platinum.

While Rafferty never received the chart success as he had with “Baker Street,” he had four other charting singles: “Right Down the Line” at #12, “Home and Dry” at #28, “Days gone Down” at #17, and “Get it right Next Time” at #21. Rest in Peace Gerry – we will miss your contributions to this world.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Redeye: Games

It’s my first One Hit Wonders Wednesday. Just in case someone questions why some songs are included, I’ll provide my motivation. I define a “One Hit Wonder” as an artist’s only song to chart within the Top 40. Bands and singers even will qualify if they had a dozen singles charting above (or is below) 40 (i.e. 41-100), but only one song charting between 1 and 40.

Now that we’ve got the preliminaries out of the way, one of my favorite one hit wonders is by the Los Angeles based band Redeye. Their only Top 40 single “Games” peaked the day after Christmas 1970 at #27. “Games” was released on Redeye’s self titled debut album. I bought this album in 72 as a cutout at Woolworths in Eastland Shopping Center and still have it in my collection.

Another nice thing about this recording is the clean stereo mix – great separation - the drums sound just perfect in the right channel with the acoustic rhythm guitar keeping time in the left. There is a little bit of everything in this tune: a driving bass, cowbell, several different lead guitar sounds (including authentic fuzz tone distortion), ratchet, and a great ending. I hope I’m not the only one that remembers this great tune from 1970.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The DePue Brothers Band: Mexico

While on my way to Wal-Mart on Sunday, I was tuned into Mountain Stage (from the Mountain State of West Virginia) on West Virginia Public Radio. I heard for the first time the DePue Brothers Band. Fronted by four brothers from Bowling Green, Ohio who are classical violin virtuosos, the band mixes their classical training with other musical styles.

While I didn’t hear “Mexico” on the show (which they may have performed), it reminds me of the David Grisman Quartet turned up to eleven on a scale of one to ten. Can they pull off this sound live as they can in the studio, you bet they can. Don’t let the production fool you, their wizardry on the strings is every bit as real – live or Memorex. The recording is from their album “Weapons of Grass Construction.”

Principle violinist Alex DePue who has been playing his instrument since age five, won a major violin competition at the age of ten. He also showed an early interest in fiddle music and was the Michigan State Fiddling Champion from 1994 to 1998.

He is joined by his siblings Wallace, Jason, and Zachary – all accomplished musicians in their own right. Dr. Wallace DePue is the assistant concertmaster for the Philly Pops. Brother Jason DePue is a member of the first violin section of the Philadelphia Orchestra. Zachary is currently concertmaster of the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra.

Others in the band include drummer Don Liuzzi who is the principal timpanist with the Philadelphia Symphony Orchestra. Session musician and US National Flatpicking Guitar Champ Mark Cosgrove provides six-string accompaniment. Classical and jazz bassist Kevin MacConnell holds down the low end. I am not sure who plays banjo on this song as both band member Mike Munford and guest musician Tony Trischka are credited with playing on the CD.

Definitely a treat to hear and hopefully some more songs will become available on You Tube.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Mac McAnally: Little Martha

One of the greatest little instrumentals of all time is found on the Allman Brothers’ LP “Eat A Peach.” Recorded just weeks before Duane Allman’s death in October 1971, “Little Martha” is just over two minutes in length and is what Leo Kottke has referred to as “possibly the most perfect guitar song ever written.”

Mac McAnally explains why he had difficulty learning this tune that was recorded in open E tuning (EBEG#BE) as he appeared on the Bob and Tom syndicated radio show.

The guitar Mac is playing is a Resolectric from the National Resophonic Guitar Company. According to National website, the guitar’s specs are as follows:
The current model uses an audiophile-quality Highlander preamp to mix both the magnetic and piezoelectric pickups. A Jason Lollar P-90 pickup sits in the neck position, and a Highlander piezo transducer is fitted under the saddle. The output of each pickup is controlled by independent volume knobs, with a master volume knob to control the instrument's overall output level. A 3-way toggle switch selects which pickups are active. The solid mahogany body is capped with a figured maple top bound in ivoroid. The figured maple neck clears 14 frets to the body, highlighted with a diamond inlaid, rosewood fretboard.

It’s a great sounding guitar that beats the original National Resophonics of the 50s and 60s to pieces. I know as I have one. Mine is from 1958 and I bought it during the summer of 1976 at B&B Loans in Charleston, WV for $85. I love my Resophonic, but alas it not electric and has only 12 frets to the body.

Allman Brothers’ Original

Played by Duane Allman and Dicky Betts, the title “Little Martha” was inspired by a grave at the Rose Hill Cemetery in Macon, GA. It is the same cemetery that provided the inspiration for the Dicky Betts’ tune “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed” and the same cemetery where Duane Allman and Berry Oakley would be laid to rest.

Little Martha Ellis was one month shy of her 13th birthday when she died in 1836. A full sized statue of the little girl whose name would be immortalized a century and a half later stands watch over her final resting place in Macon.

It appears that the original pedestal for the statue was replaced at some time in the recent past. For more on her grave site, see her Find A Grave memorial.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Joan Baez: God is God

For today’s Spiritual Sunday selection comes from the last album released by Joan Baez – “Day After Tomorrow.” Steve Earle wrote “God is God” for Baez and sings harmony on this cut from 2008. The refrain changes after each verse and is very profound indeed.

Following verse one, she sings “Yeah, I believe in God, and God ain't me.” Ending verse two is the line “And I believe in God, and God ain't us.” The song ends with the title line “But I believe in God, and God is God.”

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Head East: Never Been Any Reason

Happy New Year! It is the first day of the year and I am beginning a new Saturday feature that looks at songs that bubbled under the Top 40 charts. This includes non-single album cuts that were popular but never charted outside of Album Oriented Rock radio.

The first song in this series of features comes from Head East, an Illinois band that never gained the popularity that they were due. In 1974, they recorded their first album “Flat as a Pancake” on their own Pyramid Records label. This limited release LP grew in popularity in the Midwest and garnered the attention of the A & R (artist and repertoire) department at A & M Records. The label picked up the band and re-released the album in its entirety in 1975.

The first single from their debut album was “Never Been Any Reason,” a song that had been popular on Midwestern radio a year earlier. I remember Bob Lee playing this one quite often during his evening album music shows on Ashland, KY's WAMX. The single only charted 68 on the Hot 100 probably because it had already had its run of popularity in the band’s primary region. The album peaked at #126 on the Billboard Album Charts and was certified as a gold album.

Studio Version

What a great tune, Roger Boyd’s keyboards provide some of the shining moments of this song. It has tasty monophonic synthesizer runs that pan from left to right and are double tracked in stereo in places. The portamento feature on the synth is executed beautifully and the Hammond organ is the glue that holds it all together.

It is also a unique song that it has dual lead vocals with the first two lines of the verse sung by drummer Steve Huston followed by lead vocalist John Schlitt with the two providing harmony on the chorus and the first part of the verses’ fourth line. It has tasty bass licks, guitar harmonics, and of course cowbell.

Live Version

In 1979, the song was also released on “Head East Live!” If there was any reason that some would have thought that the keyboard antics couldn’t be reproduced live, this recording dispels that theory. While not every lick that Roger Boyd played could be replicated due to overdubs, guitarist (and the song’s author) Mike Somerville picks up any slack that may have occurred live by providing the counterpoint.

As with the synth that Roger Boyd used on the studio version, he has an axe that uses two oscillators that are tuned an octave a part with one slightly detuned giving the keyboards an extremely fat sound. Shortly after the release of this LP, vocalist John Schlitt left the band. He would later return to the music scene in the 1980s as the lead vocalist for the Christian rock band Petra.