Sunday, May 20, 2018

More U.K. Obscurities On U.S. Labels: The Ivy League "My World Fell Down"

THE IVY LEAGUE-My World Fell Down/When You're Young US Cameo 449 1966

My introduction to Britain's squeaky clean harmony trio The Ivy League came not via one of their many UK hits but from this semi obscure 45 that they cut in 1966 which was included on Bam Caruso's Rubble series on 1988's "Volume 7: Pictures In The Sky". It would be their last US release, issued in December 1966 (the UK version on Piccadilly 7N 35348 was previously issued in October). "My World Fell Down" was also covered by the US group Sagittarius and released as a single in the US in May 1967 (Columbia 4-44163) and the UK in August 1967 (CBS 2867) featured on the famous 1972 US 60's garage compilation "Nuggets".

"My World Fell Down" is easily the best cut The Ivy League ever came up with.  Written by John Carter with fellow tune smith Geoff Stephens it's aided in no small part due to the somber strings care of producer Terry Kennedy.  The orchestration and the band's brilliant harmonies weaving in and out of the sawing strings are nothing short of brilliant! It has a certain bleakness to it only matched by, say, The Move with "Blackberry Way".

The flip side, "When You're Young" is dreadful because of the children's backing vocals (the British release credits read  "accomp. by The Children's Choir Dr. Barnardo's Barkingside" (Dr. Barnardo's is a charity organization in Britain charged with the aid and care of orphans and foster children. David Bowie's father, Haywood Jones was a PR man for Dr. Barnardo's interestingly). They're like fingernails on a chalk board and not at all groovy like the kids of Keith West's "Excerpts From A Teenage Opera".

As mentioned frequently in our other Ivy League posts both sides are available on a variety of Ivy League compilation CD's. As their material is owned by Castle Communications they've been licensed to death.

Hear "My World Fell Down":

Hear "When You're Young":

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

More U.K. Obscurities On U.S. Labels: Spooky Tooth's Debut

SPOOKY TOOTH-Sunshine Help Me/Weird US Mala 587 1967

In 1967, UK psychedelic band Art (formerly mod/r&b connoisseurs The V.I.P's ) were going nowhere.  Their debut 45 a cover of the Buffalo Springfield's "For What It's Worth" sank without a trace as did their Guy Steven's produced LP "Supernatural Fairy Tales" (both were released on Island records). Island's boss Chris Blackwell met a New Jersey born keyboardist named Gary Wright (later to find fame in the US in 1975 with the hit "Dreamweaver") who was in London and hooked him up with Art.  The result was a name change and Spooky Tooth was born.

Their debut 45, the Gary Wright penned "Sunshine Help Me" was produced by Jimmy Miller and released in the UK on Island ( WI-6022) in December 1967 and simultaneously launched in the USA on the Bell records subsidiary Mala (curiously the band's debut US LP would be on Bell).

"Sunshine Help Me" is driven by some great harmonies, tabla and organ/ harpsichord and Mike Harrison and Gary Wright's vocals (though Wright's screeching can be a bit much, somehow sounding suspiciously like Mick Jagger's histrionics on "Sympathy For The Devil" though predating it obviously).  I always dug Harrison's strong voice on the V.I.P's and Art stuff so it's definitely an asset.  There's an almost chunky, Hendrix style groove to the guitars and something about it also reminds me of late era Small Faces Immediate era stuff.

The B-side "Weird" was previously cut by Art as "I Think I'm Going Weird" on their LP. Re-recorded by Spooky Tooth its slowed down a bit and the organ is heavier in the mix and Gary Wright's vocals have a Steve Windwood-like quality to them, but I have always preferred Mike Harrison's soulful vocals so the Art version wins out for me.

Both cuts are available on a Spooky Tooth CD collection "Lost In My Dream:An Anthology 1968-1974". Mike Harrison sadly passed away on March 25th.

Hear "Sunshine Help Me":

Hear "Weird":

Sunday, May 6, 2018

David Bowie Is

In 2013 when "Mojo" magazine announced a David Bowie exhibition at the V&A in London I was peeved as usual that Britons always get to see cool things we Americans don't. Ten cities later the exhibit is at it's final destination in Brooklyn, New York at the Brooklyn Museum as "David Bowie Is" which runs until July 15th of this year. The exhibit became sort of a traveling memorial with Bowie's untimely passing and will probably be the last time anyone gets to see so many of his things up close.

Unlike the Rolling Stone's "Exhibitionism"  I avoided reading articles on "David Bowie Is" and since cameras were not permitted I didn't have to worry about too many friends posting pics on social media.  I wanted to be completely unaware of what the exhibit had to offer even though I had a few ideas before I made my trip to Brooklyn (which literally felt like driving to Minnesota) .

Photo courtesy of
The exhibit starts with a small bedroom with a bed flanked by blow up photos of David in his first band The Konrads and The King Bees and adorned with his original plastic Grafton saxophone (as seen in shots of his first band the Konrads and later resurrected for the back cover shots of "Pin Ups") and his Ziggy era Harptone 12 string (not, sadly the Framus 12 string that features in pics from '65-'66).  Admittedly there is not a lot of my beloved 60's period on display (even the vinyl from the 60's on display are repressings or in the case of one of the Pye singles, a mock up!). There's loads of photos, sheet music for Davie Jones & The King Bees "Liza Jane" and the holy grail of the exhibit for me, the charts for "The London Boys" that Bowie and bassist Dek Fearnley wrote out for session musicians to play in the 1966 session for probably one of my favorite Bowie tracks (complete with corrections by the classically trained session men!). Quite literally almost every article of clothing you've seen Bowie perform in or photographed in from the Ziggy era to his final tour are on display. From the Ziggy kimono to the insane corrugated metal dress he wore on "Saturday Night Live" (complete with the appearance on a TV screen below the item, my first time watching it in over 40 years since S.N.L. vigorously removes content posted to YouTube), to his tuxedo and hat from the 1975 Grammy awards to his white shirt and black vest and trousers from "The Thin White Duke" period to the Freddie Burretti designed suit from Mick Rock's "Life On Mars"promo film (it's actually light blue not green as the video leads you to believe!) to Natasha Korniloff's Pierrot clown suit from the "Ashes To Ashes" video, David Bowie apparently not only never threw anything out but took meticulous care of everything. It's quite astonishing when considering his life of rock n' roll excess through a sizable chunk of the 1970's that he managed to hang onto nearly everything!

But beyond the clothing there are loads of other interesting and unusual items. There's a small alcove where the walls are lined with 7 inch picture sleeves of every UK David Bowie 45, there's a whole wall dedicated to Bowie's 2nd LP "David Bowie" (issued in the US as "Man Of Words Man Of Music") complete with sketches and the final painting by George Underwood that adorned the back cover and a print of a geometric design painting by artist Victor Vasarely which had David's head superimposed on as the front cover.  There's a host of other odd Bowie ephemera such as the keys to his Berlin flat, his map of the Berlin subway system, the test pressing his manager Ken Pitt gave him of the first Velvet Underground album in 1966 , his coke spoon (yes I'm not kidding), loads of sketches, diary entries and even a telegram from label mate Elvis Presley wishing him luck on his 1976 US tour. There is an array of videos playing throughout and the headset provided is activated when you pass certain parts of the exhibit.

At an astonishingly affordable price of $20 its certainly worth seeing. Geographical considerations made it impossible for me to get there on a weekday so my Saturday afternoon visit was mobbed to the point that I'm considering going back on a weekday so that I can take in everything I missed! Tickets are still available  through the link above.

All the old dudes carry the news...

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

April's Picks

1. GORDON WALLER-"Rosecrans Blvd"
Before breaking off from song partner Peter Asher in 1969 Gordon Waller made the bold step of cutting Jimmy Webb's opus "Rosecrans Blvd" in early 1968 as a 45 for Columbia (it was previously interpreted by The 5th Dimension and Johnny Rivers) full of bombastic key changes, brass and full blown strings. It works incredibly well, but it wasn't a hit. Peter Asher became an A&R man for Apple turning down David Bowie  and Gordon sank into obscurity.

2. BERT JANSCH-"Do You Hear Me Now"
From Bert's debut 1965 LP on Transatlantic comes this powerful number covered by Donovan later in the year.  I've never been a huge fan of Jansch solo stuff but I'm coming around, slowly.

3. ALBERT HAMMOND-"The Air That A Breathe"
The beauty of my Anroak Thing Instagram account is I have met loads of like minded, groovy souls who are constantly giving me a musical education and consistently sending me scurrying to investigate things I haven't heard before, like this Albert Hammond tune made hugely famously by The Hollies. The devil is in the detail here with the simple strings and Beatle-esque feel and the insane part where you think it's going to end and it comes back harder and stomping like Slade doing a "Hey Jude"/"I Am The Walrus" medley. I doff my hat to Twig The Wonder Kid for leading me to the water on this.

4. THE CROOKS-"Waiting For You"
These oft derided former pub rock '79 mod bandwagon jumpers had a lot going for them. For starters they could actually play their instruments and second they weren't aping the Jam. "Waiting For You" is what Squeeze would have sounded like had they dabbled in plastic reggae drum beats and guitar licks ala The Police. Musos to a man, the deadpan double tracked vocal delivery is pure Difford/Tillbrook and works on top of the cod ska rhythm that plays hide and seek with the reggae roto toms . From their sole LP "Just Released".

Cut in August 1965 for an Immediate records session overseen by Jimmy Page that also produced "I'm Your Witchdoctor", "On Top Of The World" languished in the Immediate vaults after being passed over as single material until a 1968 Immediate blues compilation brought it to light. Taped shortly before Eric Clapton jumped ship for a brief pre-"Bluesbreakers featuring Eric Clapton" Greek expedition, "On Top Of The World" is a fascinating glimpse of Mayall's attempt at toning down the blues and cutting a "pop" record.

6. JOHNNY RIVERS-"Summer Rain"
River's 1967 single later appeared on his highly underrated 1968 LP "Realization", which like Del Shannon, The Four Seasons, Rick Nelson and a host of others left high and dry by the British Invasion and psychedelia has its moments. It's probably the first song to name check "Sgt Pepper's Lonely Heart's Club Band" (complete with a snippet of rocking out ala title cut of the Fab's '67 masterpiece). The LP version is a little longer (hear below) and ends with a tuning up and crowd noise fade out nicked from the Fab's "Sgt. Pepper..." LP intro.

7. ROBYN HITCHCOCK-"Trams Of Old London"
"In the Blitz they never closed though the blew up half the roads, oh it really hurts to see 'em goin' dead in a museum...". Ray Davies had steam trains, Robyn had trams. Two examples of English wit and nostalgia for an England that was long gone.

8.  BEVERLEY-"Picking Up The Sunshine"
Bev's solo discography was short, just two 45's on Deram before adding a last name, a husband and a new musical direction. Luckily there were a few tracks in the Deram archives from her brief time there. This unreleased 1967 adaptation of Donovan's "House Of Jansch" was among them. It's one of the highlights of her 2018 RSD LP release "Where The Good Times Are", backed by the likes of Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones, Mike Lease, Alan White etc and easily bests the original thanks to her husky delivery and the stellar musical backing that turns it into a ragtime swinging London '67 swing meets "Sunny Afternoon" thing.

9. POET AND THE ONE MAN BAND-"The Coffee Song"
This brilliantly sublime Tony Colton/Ray Smith ditty was cut by Cream in their first recording session (and not issued until much later), used by Zoot Money on his brilliant 1968 LP "Transition", Dave Berry on his 1968 LP "'68" and by The Shevelles as a mediocre 1968 45. I can't find out much about this version but it features Colton and Smith and along with the Zoot's reading is one of my fave versions of one the number which incidentally is one of my favorite tunes. It's about an aging note card left at a table in a railway cafe by one half of a couple who met by chance years before and are desperately seeking to reconnect.

10. DAVID BOWIE-"Suffragette City"
There's a wealth of great tracks on the "Ziggy Stardust" album, but this one always grabs me. It's so well put together with Ronno's slashing guitar, synth hiding in the mix, the "hey man" response, Bowie's cheeky lyrics ("I gotta straighten my face this mellow thighed chick just put my spine outta place", "Hey droogie don't crash here there's only room for one and here she comes here she comes...", "awww wham bam thank you mam") and thumping Stonesy piano. To me it's timeless and nothing short of infectious.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

More U.K. Obscurities On U.S. Labels: Pre-Wimple Winch Just Four Men

JUST FOUR MEN-There's Not One Thing US Tower 163 1965

Capitol records Tower subsidiary had a brief brain storm in 1965 where they backed 45's by Freddie & The Dreamers with tracks by other British artists. The first was April 1965's "You Were Made For Me" (Tower 127) which was backed by The Beat Merchant's "So Fine". Today's specimen was released in October 1965 with Freddie & Co's "Send A Letter To Me" backed by a cut from a Liverpool combo called Just Four Men (confusingly they were previously known as "The Four Just Men" and had a Tower 45 all to their own, "That's My Baby/Things Will Never Be The Same", Tower 118 January 1965).  "There's Not One Thing" was previously an A-side in the UK in February as Parlophone R 5241 where it was backed by "Don't Come Any Closer".  Freakbeat scholars will tell you that by 1966 the group morphed into the legendary Wimple Winch.

"There's Not One Thing" is a moody beat ballad. It's tempo and key bring to mind the Zombies at their most forlorn (think "Leave Me Be" or "I Must Move") and it's precision double tracked vocals and jazzy guitar licks make it a beat group classic. It was included in the now out of print Wimple Winch CD anthology "The Wimple Winch Story 1963-1968".  The Freddie and the Dreamers A-side "Send A Letter to Me" is crap.  It starts out with a nifty Seekers style guitar lick but its a god awful song that needs to be in a landfill somewhere....

Hear "And There's Not One Thing":

Monday, April 23, 2018

Great Obscure U.K. 60's Sides: The Big Three

THE BIG THREE-By The Way/Cavern Stomp UK Decca F 11689 1963

Liverpool had one of the largest beat group scenes in Britain and nearly all of them made at least one record in the wake of Beatlemania which saw A&R men swoop up there with contracts in hand.  Still smarting from rejecting The Beatles Decca records surprisingly signed few Merseybeat acts to their roster, among them were The Mojos, The Pete Best Four, The Dennisons and a band some of have called "The first power trio": The Big Three. Headed by the enigmatic vocalist/drummer John Hutchinson (aka "Johnny Hutch" to all on Merseyside) they featured Brian Griffiths (vocals/guitar) and future Merseybeat/Roxy Music vocalist/bassist John Gustafson (aka "Johnny Gus"). There were multiple line-ups but it's this configuration that many, myself included, consider the "classic" Big Three line up. Like many 60's Scouse beat acts the band were initially handled by Brian Epstein, who secured them a recording contract. The band released their first 45 on Decca in March '63 with a version of the "Louie Louie" of Liverpool, Richie Barrett's "Some Other Guy" (Decca F 11614) which reached #37 on the UK charts.

For a follow up release the band had a Mitch Murray track "By The Way" foist on them (beat scholars will recall The Beatles being also saddled with a dreadful Murray composition called "How Do You Do It", which they rejected and became a hit for the more compliant fellow Liverpudlians Gerry and the Pacemakers). The band were not at all happy with the release. Interestingly after this release in June 1963 the band parted ways with Epstein. Legends abound about their unruly behavior leading to Epstein terminating their contract  though another version was, understandably, that Epstein clearly had too much on his plate handling the Beatles, Gerry & The Pacemakers, Cilla Black, Billy J. Kramer and the Dakotas and others!

"By The Way" , like "How Do You Do It" is a sappy, uninteresting, pop ditty. The band do their best but it's not a terribly interesting composition. It's not dreadful, but it's not not something you want to play repeatedly. The number is redeemable only by Griffith's nifty guitar playing and Gustafson's backing vocals (an asset he would take with him to The Merseybeats) . The real gold is the flip side, "Cavern Stomp", a group original (which somehow the producer Noel Walker wound up sharing credits on). It's a rollicking, catchy beat group number that jives with amphetamine energy . Built around an infectious riff and lyrics that are possibly the only track of the Merseybeat era to name check the "movements" home base venue it's incredibly brief (1:41) but incredible. "Keep your jive and your rock n roll, do the Cavern stomp..."

In 1982 Edsel records would compile the band's slim discography as an LP "Cavern Stomp", which contains both tracks. A CD release in 2009 was put out by RPM titled "Cavern Stomp: The Complete Recordings" collecting all of their tracks and the Edsel LP was semi-legitimately issued on CD in 2004 by Deram in Germany as part of their "Liverpool Connection" series.

Here's an excellent feature on the band from someone who witnessed them back in the day:

Hear "By The Way":

Hear "Cavern Stomp":

Sunday, April 15, 2018


There's a great scene in the 2000 iconic London underworld film "Gangster No. 1" where a bunch of aging old gangsters are sitting around a table drunk at a (presumably) private boxing match and one of them begins to reminisce about a record label that needed "seeing to": "I can still picture the record label going round and round, what was it.....Dee-ram records was it?"

Deram records, a favorite subject of ours, was launched in the UK in 1966 as a subsidiary of Decca records (in the USA it fell under the umbrella of London records). Interestingly the labels intended first releases were a series of orchestral LP's (six in all) issued in October 1967. They were preceded by a matter of days by two releases on September 30th Beverely's interpretation of Randy Newman's "Happy New Year" b/w her own "Where The Good Times Are" (Deram DM 101) and Cat Steven's "I Love My Dog" b/w "Portobello Road) Deram DM 102). The label had a long and prolific run until 1979 when it ceased releasing contemporary records and remained solely a reissue label. I decided to pick 10 of my favorite 45 releases on the label, no easy task I can assure you. Their UK releases are listed first and US releases (if any) are listed second in each entry. Enjoy!

1. DENNY LAINE-"Say You Don't Mind" UK DM 122, US 45-7509 1967
Former Moody Blues front man Denny Laine wasted no time kick starting a solo career after leaving his band in the Summer of 1966. Lushly orchestrated by producer Denny Cordell (who had also produced the last 4 Denny Laine era Moodie's 45's) "Say You Don't Mind" is nothing short of your brilliant archetype pop/psych ditty. Starting with woodwinds  and the the earlier mentioned strings it gave hope for what would be a brilliant solo career that sadly only resulted in one more solo 45 for the label.

2. DAVID BOWIE-"The London Boys" UK DM 107 1966
Originally demo'ed in early 1966 for Pye records during Bowie's one year stint with them "The London Boys" was rejected for release by producer Tony Hatch due to its drug references.  After leaving Pye Bowie and his backing group the Buzz re-cut it at the famous RG Jones studio in Morden in October 1966 and when they were signed to Deram it became the flip of his debut "Rubber Band". Somber and effective with just organ, bass, woodwinds and trumpets it builds to a crescendo as drums come in and Bowie disdainfully laments about the seamy side of life "with the London boys".

3.  AMEN CORNER-"World Of Broken Hearts" UK DM 151, US 45-85021 1967
Welsh 7 piece Amen Corner was one of the tightest blue eyed soul bands in the UK in the late 60's. Their 1967 cover of the Pomus/Shuman composition (previously cut as a B-side by Cissy Houston) is miles beyond the original with the horns having an almost psychedelic effect as they fade in and out behind Andy Fairweather-Low's distinct soulful vocals and the churchy B-3 and subtle strings that are just discernible. Magic!

4. FRIENDS-"Mythological Sunday" UK DM 198 1968
Friends were a one off studio concoction by legendary singer/songwriters John Carter and Ken Lewis. "Mythological Sunday" was the flip of the easily forgettable "Piccolo Man". Wrapped in eerie Mellotron and the pair's soaring harmonies it ends with a drone and war sound effects and the poignant refrain "a million men went off to fight a war in foreign lands and fifty thousand came back home with blood upon their hands, would any soldier that was left go back to fight once more if he could know before he died what he was fighting for" before the main Mellotron riff softly comes back like an ominous clarion. Freaky.

5. VIRGIN SLEEP-"Love" UK DM 146, US 45-7514 1967
Sounding not too dissimilar to The Trogg's "Love Is All Around", Virgin Sleep's debut 45 in truth was issued a whole month before!  Beautifully orchestrated with faint sitar licks and finger cymbals, "Love" is a perfect pop-psych opus with it's Gregorian chant backing vocals and Left Banke inspired strings while the lyrics encapsulate the whole "love" flower power ethic without being cheesy or camp. Photos of the quartet show them looking very un-flower power in the pattern button down collar shirts and mod haircuts no doubt unsure of their direction. Produced by Noel Walker who also was behind fellow label types The Eyes Of Blue and their Welsh brethren Amen Corner.

6.  TINTERN ABBEY-"Vacuum Cleaner" UK DM 164 1967
Easily my #1 favorite psychedelic 45 of all time and without a doubt the most expensive and sought after example of it's genre, this sonic dose of British psychedelia stands above all comers. On the flip of the curiously titled "Beeside", "Vacuum Cleaner", an odd ode to a household cleaning apparatus, is musically sparse. It's just bass, drums (with some heavily miked cymbals) and double tracked vocals until a heavily phased wah-wah pedal guitar solo buzzes out of nowhere and does it business and quits.

7. CLYDE McPHATTER-"Baby You've Got It" UK DM 223, US 45-85039 1969
Ex-Drifter Clyde McPhatter cut several tracks in 1968 in the UK under the supervision of producer Wayne Bickerton (see The Flirtations below)  that eventually resulted in two Deram 45's. "Baby You Got It" was the last of the two (preceded by the Jackie Lomax/Wayne Bickerton penned "Only A Fool" in July 1968, DM 202). With it's uptempo groove, soulful strings, vibes and fuzz bass it was an instant smash on the Northern soul scene in the 1970's. Sadly neither single did anything to resuscitate McPhatter's flagging career.

8. THE FLIRTATIONS-"Nothing But A Heartache" UK DM  216, US 45-85036 1968 /45-85038 1969
The South Carolina trio The Flirtations came to England and were scooped up by former Lee Curtis and The All Stars/Pete Best Combo members Wayne Bickerton and Tony Waddington.  The Liverpudlian duo were then part of Decca/Deram's in house magicians of A&R and production. They wrote and produced pretty much every track the Flirtations cut on Deram with a handful of exceptions and none was stronger than this, their 2nd 45 for the label unleashed in November 1968. Wrapped in the lavishly orchestrated strings and horns it's by far one of the label's most powerful 45's which fails to explain why it only reached a paltry #31 in the USA and #51 in the UK (it was released in the US twice, in December 1968 and again in January 1969, each pressing bearing a different B-side)!!

9. THE SYN-"Grounded" UK DM 130, US 45-7510 1967
The Syn were one of the most active bands on the London scene racking up a record 36 appearances at the Marquee Club in less than a year in '66-'67.  The band's existence was brief and they cut a mere two singles for Deram but what a ride they had. "Grounded", the flip of their debut "Created By Clive" (dubbed "Created by idiots" by the band who hated the number and refused to play it live), owes much to their Marquee heroes The Action from it's fluid Rickenbacker licks to it's high falsetto harmony backing vocals and it's fattened up by some tasty Farfisa organ. The Syn was also the home of future Yes members Peter Banks and Chris Squire.

10. THE MOVE-"Night Of Fear" UK DM 109 1966, US 45-7504 1967
Comprised of the cream of the Brum beat scene the Move burst into the pop world in December 1966 with their debut 45 (produced by Georgie Fame producer Denny Cordell) with guitarist Roy Wood's ode to paranoia "Night Of Fear" (the flip "Disturbance" also seemed to tackle a recurring Move song theme, mental illness). The track starts with an "1812 Overture" lick which Roy Wood cited as coming from his parents love of classical music. The Move were huge soul purveyors in their well honed live set prior to this which makes me wonder whether the idea came from Ike and Tina's "Tell Her I'm Not Home" instead. Led by the band's brilliant four part harmonies and heavy bass from the band's resident ace face Chris "Ace" Kefford it ranks up there with the greatest Who and Creation sides. Kefford soulfully croons the "just about to flip your mind, just about to trip your mind" in the refrain. Two years later he would be edged out of the band after an L.S.D. induced nervous breakdown.