Friday, December 23, 2011

For Jason

At this time I am enjoying an all-too-infrequent visit from my youngest child,my son Jayson for the holidays Not long ago he relocated to the state of Indiana,basically going where the work was. It was hard to see him go, but the way he's established himself there,full-time job,attending a university for computer sciences,and maintaining a really nice apartment, makes me beyond proud. This post and the accompanying selection, is dedicated to him and the way he's holding it down. It gets better from here, baby boy and I hope you enjoy The Average White Band's excellent rendition of the Isley Brothers' classic "Work To Do". When you're here, things just feel a little more complete.

Friday, December 9, 2011


Formed in Camden Town, London in 1976, these gentlemen were and are one of the most prominent (and arguably best) bands of the late 70s two-tone ska -punk revival. While their line-up has varied slightly over the years, the seven -man core group is Mike Barson on keyboards, guitarist Chris Foreman, Mark Bedford on bass guitar, saxophonist Lee Thompson, drummer Daniel Woodgate, Cathal Smith on trumpet and backing vocals and lead vocalist Graham "Suggs" McPherson.
Their first hit came in 1979 with "The Prince", a song which like the band's name, was a tribute to their idol, ska legend Prince Buster. Released on the 2 Tone label, it went to #16 on the U.K. charts. After touring with fellow 2 Tone acts The Specials and The Selecter They recorded their debut album One Step Beyond. Released on Stiff Records, the title track spent 32 weeks on the U.K. charts peaking at #2

The band's second studio release, Absolutely, featured more of the heavily ska-influenced material most notably "Baggy Trousers" which peaked at #3 in the U.K. and "Embarrassment" which went to #4. Reviews were mostly positive, with the notable exception of Rolling Stone Magazine, which scathingly criticized Madness as "the Blues Brothers with English accents". Not the first or last time that venerable publication got it wrong in my humble opinion.

Unlike the previous albums, the band's third release, ingeniously titled 7, was a departure from the straight ska material in favor of a more pop-oriented musical  direction. "Grey Day" (#4), "Shut Up" (#7) and "Cardiac Arrest" (#14) revealed this change including a different vocal style by Suggs. One of the most striking excamples of this new direction was the 1981 release of acover of Labi Siffri's 1971 hit  "It Must Be Love", a masterfully crafted rendition that became one of the band's signature tunes.

1982 Madness released their first and only #1 hit, "House Of Fun".The song was performed live on the British tv series The Young Ones, and was included on their first compilation disc, Complete Madness. The fourth studio album, The Rise And Fall , was a huge hit in Britain but was not released in the U.S. It contained the band's biggest internationally known song "Our House", which appeared in the U.S on the aforementioned Complete Madness collection.

In 1982, their single "Wings Of A Dove" went to #2 in the U.K. and the following album, Keep Moving peaked at #6. By this time the band had their own label, Zarjazz Records, and their own recording studio, Liquidator Studios. The studio is still used by many musicians including Madness themselves.
The band broke up in 1986 and later re-united in 1991, which brought about the re-release of "It Must Be Love" and a live show, called Madstock. Madstock was held on August  8 and 9 at Finsbury Park in London and was attended by over 75,000 fans. The song's second coming got it to #6 U.K. while a singles compilation album Divine Madness peaked at #1. Subsequent to the Madstock reunion a live album was released featuring a Madness performance of Jimmy Cliff's venerable song "The Harder They Come". This was released as a single that went to #44  U.K. with the album reaching #22.

Madness was awarded "The Idol Award"at The Q Awards  in London. The band's final show was at  London's Earls Court in December 2010. Truly one of the finest bands to walk the stage. This final clip is a collaboration, written with Elvis Costello called "Tomorrow's Just Another Day."

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Parliament - Funkadelic

What we have here is not, in the strictest sense, a band in spite of fact that they are known to do a lot of band-like things...write great music, kick all kinds of ass onstage, influence at least two entire generations of musicians, that sort of thing.  The fact is Parliament-Funkadelic is not so much a band as they are a collective. They are an ever-changing group of individuals coming, going and coming back again, vast in numbers and united by a concept created a long time ago by a man named George Clinton.

Plainfield ,New Jersey in the 1950's is the place to start. A doo-wop group formed called The Parliaments  (pictured left above). The name came from a brand of cigarettes. They were Ray Davis,Fuzzy Haskins,Calvin Simon,Grady Thomas,and group leader George Clinton (far right in the picture and also pictured to the right). After several attempts at several labels, the finally scored a hit with "(I Wanna) Testify" on the Revilot label. It reached #3 r'n'b and #20 pop on the Billboard charts.  As it turned out, Clinton was the only member to appear on the recording because the other members were unable to make the trip to Detroit for the sessions. It was on the surface a nice bit of the expected soul vocal group offering, but a closer listen revealed an underlying subversiveness in the performance not  found in similar groups.

Clinton put together a backing group for a tour,and having lost the rights to the name, "The Parliaments" in a contract dispute, renamed the entire ensemble Funkadelic, a name coined by bassist Billy Nelson.The band consisted of Nelson, guitarist Tawl Ross, keyboardist Mickey Atkins,  guitarist Eddie Hazel, and drummer Tiki Fulwood. The band itself was signed to Westbound Records by Clinton and released their epynomously named debut album in 1970. The album also featured the five-man group who were at one time The Parliaments.

Clinton, having regained the rights to The Parliaments name, formed a new entity, called simply Parliament. It was comprised of the same two groups combined but concentrated on a smoother r'n'b sound as a counterpoint to Funkadelic's funkier, more aggressive guitar-oriented sound. (stay with me,it all comes together soon) Parliament signed first to Invictus Records, then to Casablanca Records where they released their first album, Up For The Down Stroke in 1974.

Combining influences with the best of them, Clinton's collective served up James Brown-like marathon funk, the humor and fearless experimentation of Frank Zappa, and with it's stellar line-up of past and present guitarists, generous amounts of Hendrix-Zeppelin inspired hard rock. Much like John Mayall's Bluesbreakers, P-Funk had legends pass through it's ranks. Bootsy Collins,  Bernie Worrell,Gary Shider, Fred Wesley,Maceo Parker,Eddie Hazel and Phillipe Wynne are all Parliament-Funkadelic alumni. All told, the organization produced thirteen top ten hits including six Number one hits on the American charts between 1967 and 1983.

Along with personell changes a-plenty, there of course were the inevitable differences both artistic and personal that resulted in spin-off bands such as Glenn Goins' Quazar and Jerome Brailey's Mutiny. Spin-offs also were formed under George Clinton's tutelage, most notably Bootsy's Rubber Band and The Brides Of Funkenstein. P-Funk music has had a large influence on hip-hop with the group's works being widely sampled on a huge number of rap hits, particularly by Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre. Hits like "One Nation Under A Groove", "Flashlight" and "Atomic Dog" are practically tutorials on funk music. George Clinton and fifteen other members were inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame in May of 1997, the largest group inducted to date. You simply cannot intelligently discuss funk without discussing P-Funk.

Monday, October 31, 2011

For Dana

This post is dedicated to my first-born child, now a beautiful young lady. I think this song by one of my favorite rock vocalists is particularly fitting at this period of her life.
Hear the words and know that your father loves you and understands, little one.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Hidden Diamonds - Taxxi

In spite of the fact that Paul Rodgers and Free had nothing to do with this release, one could not be blamed for thinking "I'm Leaving" was one of the classic British band's best songs. With a spot-on rendering of Rodger's vocal style, Paul Kossoff's killer vibrato and even Andy Fraser's percolating bass, the only thing the two bands had in common was their home country of Great Britain.
Formed in the late 70s by bassist Colin Payne, vocalist/guitarist David Cummings and drummer Jeffrey Nead, the trio were augmented in the studio by various musicians, most notably American Idol judge Randy Jackson who is seen in the accompanying video on bass guitar. "I'm Leaving" appeared on the album State Of Emergency, released in 1982. It was the band's second of four albums consisting of, curiously enough, mostly new wave style material. It was the red headed stepchild "I'm Leaving" that gave them their only real hit, as it remains a classic rock staple today. The song went to #39 on the Billboard charts, and stands as the best Free song Free never recorded.

Saturday, October 15, 2011


Sparks was a band...a very good band, in fact. Led by  the brothers Mael, Russell and Ron, they were loved by the critics and rightly so, combining as they did mainstream pop, chamber music, electronica and glam in an irresistably catchy mixture topped off by Ron's imaginative keyboard work and Russell's effortless falsetto. Russell's pretty-boy frontman antics contrasted nicely with Ron's sedentary scowl. Having themselves a nice little career, they were, when their guitarist quit. As would be expected, they set out to find another one. High on their list was one Brian May, whose band Queen was weathering the critics' disdain for their first album release as well as generally indifferent audience reaction at their shows. The Mael brothers approached May, knowing full well of his band's struggles, with an offer to join the upwardly-moving Sparks. The guitarist while having utmost admiration for Sparks and the Maels, declined, chosing to continue to fight the good fight with his present band. How'd that work out for him, then?

Not too, not too badly at all. It seems things turned around a bit.

It was around 1968 when Brian May, a student at London's Imperial College, and bassist Tim Staffell decided to form a band. They placed an ad for a "Mitch Mitchell/Ginger Baker type drummer"...instead they got dental student Roger Taylor. They called the band Smile. Staffell became friends with a fellow student at Ealing Art College named Farrokh Bulsara, who had been using the name Freddie. Bulsara became a fan of the band and being a singer, eventually started working with them. Staffell left the band in 1970 and after several bassists finally found the perfect chemistry with John Deacon. They recorded a demo featuring four songs, "Liar", "Keep Yourself Alive", "Jesus" and "The Night Comes Down", all original material. No record companies were interested. It was around this time that Bulsara began using the surname Mercury, a reference to a lyric in another Queen song "My Fairy King". Finally signed to Elektra Records, they recorded their epynomous debut LP. It was received fairly well by critics, drew little mainstream attention and the single from the album, "Keep Yourself Alive", a Brian May composition, sold poorly.

So the beginning was a bit rocky, after all, that first album was basically hard rock. A bit tarted up, but still fairly average hard rock. It was on the second album that we began to see the band that would down the road give us "Bohemian Rapshody". The incredibly layered vocal harmonies, the guitar artistry of May, almost an orchestra unto himself, and the writing, emotional and far-reaching. "The Fairy Feller's Master Stroke", "The Seven Seas Of Rhye", and the haunting "White Queen (As It Began) are all masterful compositions sounding  unlike anything heard before.

From that point on, it was all fun and games. Fun and games because Queen, much like another fave band of mine Jethro Tull, were a group of very serious artists who didn't take themselves too seriously.  All four are art or science degreed as well as accomplished musicians,writers and vocalists. Brian May built his guitar by hand and then proceeded to play things no one has played before on the damned thing. Freddy Mercury besides being possibly the greatest front man ever to stalk a stage,  also plays piano brilliantly.
but do they go on and on about their "influences"? No. Have they released any "concept albums" and taken great pains to explain them to us? Again no. Like the venerable Jethro Tull, they simply play innovative, irresistable genre-mixing hard rock at a virtuosic level and have a wonderful old time doing it. Their  subsequent albums went all over the board, rockabilly here, opera there, 20's ballroom, country, folk, jazz and all with tongue firmly in cheek, a friendly  nod and a knowing wink. Their one indulgence was boasting on the band's first nine albums that they used "no synthesisers" recording them, and to listen to those releases was to be amazed at what a guitar, bass and drums can do in the right hands. (Credit must also go to  Roy Thomas Baker, the producer on those albums.)

Freddy Mercury, as most of us know was an openly gay man. On November 23, 1991 in a prepared statement from his deathbed, he confirmed the long and widely-held belief that he suffered from AIDS. About 24 hours later he died due to bronchial pneumonia,a complication brought on by the disease. Greatly missed, he was deservingly paid tribute with a huge star-studded benefit concert at The Wembley Stadium on April 20, 1992. It was listed in The Guinness Book Of Records as "the largest rock star benefit concert".

The band did eventually carry on with Paul Rodgers in the frontman role. If I may offer my own humble personal opinion I will say that while Paul Rodgers is one of my favorite singers of all time, he is poorly suited for a band like Queen. The only performer who could do justice in the position Mercury vacated is for my money, Annie Lennox. But hey, that's just me.

Queen has to its credit 18 number one albums, 18 number one singles and 10 number one DVDs. They've sold over 150 million albums worldwide with some estimates in the area of 300 million. Honored with seven Ivor Novello Awards, the band was inducted into The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame in 2001. Oh, and lest I forget...They ROCK!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Kid Creole And The Coconuts

Some people form bands. Thomas August Darnell Browder formed a saga. A saga of a world where there are no labels or restrictions on music, gender or racial background. A sprawling story with a soudtrack that is equal parts funk, calypso, big band jazz , salsa and RnB. The stars of this tale are the above mentioned Browder having shortened his name to August Darnell alias Kid Creole (taken from the Elvis movie,King Creole), Andy Hernandez alias Coati Mundi, and the lovely trio known as The Coconuts. With able support from a big bad swinging band, this story has a happy ending night after night after night.
In 1974, Darnell and his brother Stony Browder,Jr. formed Doctor Buzzard's Original Savannah Band, whose self-named debut album went gold and produced a hit,"Cherchez La Femme"

Darnell left the group to form Kid Creole And The Coconuts with co-founder/musical director/vibaphonist/onstage comic foil Andy Hernandez, percussionist "Bongo" Eddie Folk, bassist Carol Colman, keyboardist Peter Schott, drummer Winston Grennan and guitarist Jimmy Rippetoe. They were augmented by a horn section, dubbed Pond Life with saxophonist Charlie Lagond, trumpeter Ken Fradley and Lee Robertson on trombone. The Coconuts were a trio of glamorous scantily-clad women who performed elaborate choreography and backing vocals.They were Adriana Kaegi, Cheryl Poirier and Taryn Haegy, who was later replaced by Janique Svedberg. This was the line-up during the band's peak years. Their first album, Off The Coast Of Me was critically acclaimed but sold poorly. The follow-up, Fresh Fruit In Foreign Places also received rave reviews but sold only slightly better. The band appeared on Saturday Night Live performing two songs from the album, "There But For The Grace Of God Go I" and "Mister Softee".

By this time Darnell became recognized as the wickedly clever lyricist and composer he is with crucial musical support from Hernandez, himself a gifted  musician and composer.
The band's shows were like a bigger -than-life carnival, strongly Cab Calloway-influenced with diverse musical styles expertly juggled throughout. They were huge in Europe, but struggled a bit in the U.S. due to their difficult -to-label sound.
It was in 1982 that their breakthrough album Tropical Gangsters was released, going to #3 in the U.K. charts and producing three top ten singles, "Stool Pigeon", "Annie I'm Not Your Daddy", and "I'm A Wonderful Thing". The collection, released as Wise Guy in the U.S., reached #145 on the U.S. charts with "Stool Pigeon" and "I'm A Wonderful Thing" flirting with the RnB charts.

The band played The Montreux Jazz Festival in 1986. During this time they released In Praise Of Older Women and I Too Have Seen The Woods. Despite the high quality of these albums, particularly the latter, they failed to chart although Older Women's single "Endicott" did chart respectably.

The band has appeared in a number of films including Against All Odds in 1984 and 1990's Lambada -themed The Forbidden Dance. 1990 also saw the release of Private Waters Of The Great Divide which featured the single "The Sex Of It". This song was written by Prince and recorded at Paisley Park Studios with Sheila E. While nowhere near the quality of the group's usual product, the song reached the top 40. During this period Andy Hernandez was separated from the band, and as brilliant as Darnell was, the group's output suffered quality-wise in his absence. Fortunately, Hernandez eventually returned to the fold.

Kid Creole And The Coconuts were and still are a top flight act. While their recorded output is chock-full of well crafted original songs and energetic covers, it is onstage that they make their true magic. Crowds world-wide have been witness to the band's consistently impressive musical and visual extravaganzas. Sadly, it seems that their adventurous melding of traditionally classic showmanship with modern-times  out and out rockin' has made them merely a cult favorite in the U.S. I would urge anyone who hasn't yet checked them out to do so and be richly rewarded.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Jethro Tull

There was once a band formed in 1962 called The Blades. The Blades consisted of  Jeffrey Hammond on bass, John Evans on drums, guitarist Michael Stephans and a fellow who possibly didn't even know how visionary he was yet, vocalist/harmonica player Ian Anderson.1963 came and John Evans switched from drums to keyboards, which brought Barriemore Barlow in on drums. This band evolved in time into a seven-piece RnB band called The John Evan Smash. Hammond insisted that "Evan" sounded much cooler than "Evans". By 1967 the band had broken up, leaving only Anderson and the bassist who had subsequently replaced Hammond, one Glenn Cornick. They joined forces with drummer Clive Bunker and guitarist Mick Abrahams. A booking agency staffer suggested they name themselves Jethro Tull, after the 18th century agriculturist. Ian Anderson, frustrated by his inability to play guitar like Eric Clapton, purchased a flute,of all things, and by 1968, his flute playing was featured on the band's first album, This Was. The album also featured blues, hard rock and Rahsaan Roland Kirk's "Serenade To A Cuckoo. With this, one of the most unique and spectacularly progressive bands in rock history was on it's way.

Abrahams did not get along with Cornick and chafed at the band's busy work schedule, eventually leaving the band to form Blodwyn Pig, a band more suited to his blues purism. Tony Iommi, guitarist with Earth (soon to be Black Sabbath) filled in for a short time as did David O'List, formerly with The Nice. The spot was filled at last by Martin Barre, who had just left Noel Redding's Fat Matress. He remains the longest running member next to Anderson. This line-up released Stand Up, which featured songs all written by Anderson with the exception of a jazz-rock arrangement of the fifth movement of Bach's "Bouree In E Minor". This became the band's only U.K. #1 album, branching out even further stylistically, placing them firmly in the category of progressive rock along with the likes of Yes, King Crimson and Genesis. In terms of diversity, however the band was and would continue  to be in a class by itself, invoking jazz, folk, classical and hard rock in a seamless style all their own.

One of the band's best-known songs, "Living In The Past" was written in 5/4 time in an attempt to keep it from becoming a pop hit. The attempt failed miserably, as the single went to #3 in the U.K. charts

By 1970, John Evan rejoined his mates in the band and he appeared on that year's LP release Benefit. Glenn Cornick was fired for mysterious reasons and eventually formed Wild Turkey. He was replaced by another Blade alumnus, Jeffrey Hammond. Hammond is mentioned in several Jethro Tull songs such as "A Song For Jeffrey" and "Jeffrey Goes To Leicester Square" as well as in the lyrics to "Inside". He is listed at times as Jeffrey Hammond-Hammond as a reference to the fact that his mother's maiden name was Hammond, though no relation to his father.This line-up released Jethro Tull's best-known work, Aqualung in 1971. This album featured strong opinions about religion and Anderson has maintained that it was not a concept album. Drummer Clive Bunker left the band after the album's release to spend more time with his family, to be replaced by yet another former Blades member, Barriemore Barlowe.

1972 saw the release of Thick As  A Brick, an album consisting of one song running 43:46 split over both sides of the record. It became the first of the band's albums to reach #1 in the U.S. The band seemed unable to avoid the top of the charts despite its best efforts. The following year's A Passion Play, another single -track concept album also went #1 in the  U.S. War Child followed in 1974, containing the radio mainstays "Bungle In The Jungle" and "Skating Away (On The Thin Ice Of A New Day). This was followed in 1975 by Minstrel In The Gallery.

The band ended the decade with a trio of heavily folk-infuenced albums, Songs From The Wood, Stormwatch and Heavy Horses. Many line-up changes ensued, as well as further musical explorations including electronic rock. In 1989, the band was awarded a Grammy for Best Heavy Metal Performance Vocal or Instrumental, beating the favourite Metallica. This was a controversial win because of the fact that Jethro Tull are not considered hard rock, much less heavy metal, though their music contained hard rock as one of the myriad of styles the band has employed. Their nomination was seen as a fluke by the band, and sincerely believing they had no chance of winning, no one from the band even attended the ceremony. When asked about the award in an interview, Anderson quipped "well we do play our mandolins very loudly".
The band continues to make truly great music to this day, led as always by Ian Anderson, the man who among many other things, introduced the flute to rock and roll. And we are all better for it.

Friday, August 19, 2011

War / The Lowrider Band

In 1962 a group was formed in Long Beach, California by guitarist Howard E. Scott and drummer Harold Brown called The Creators. Not long after, percussionist Papa Dee Allen, harmonica player Lee Oskar, bassist Morris "B.B. Dckerson, saxophonist Charles Miller and keyboardist Lonnie Jordan became members of this group. After recording several single on Dore Records with Tjay Contrelli, former saxopnonist with the band Love, The Creators changed their name to Night Shift and in 1968 found themselves working as the backup band for Deacon Jones, whose Hall Of Fame career as one of pro football's premier defensive ends somehow qualified him to be a singer. Producer Jerry Goldstein caught one of Deacon Jones' performances at The Rag Doll in North Hollywood and was impressed, needless to say, by the band. Goldstein, along with ex-Animals singer Eric Burdon came up with the concept of War, and making it the band's name, recorded an LP called Eric Burdon Declares War. The collection's best known track "Spill The Wine" became a hit and off they went.

The band toured extensively in the U.S. and Europe with Eric Burdon getting much  positive feedback from audiences and the press. Burdon left the band in the middle of their European tour, but not before they released a second LP, The Black Man's Burdon in 1970. After finishing the tour without him, they set to work on their self-titled follow-up album. That one tanked, but the next LP, All Day Music, went to #1. This one included the singles "Slipping Into Darkness", which went gold selling a million copies, and the title track which was also a hit.

The following album, The World Is A Ghetto did even better. It went to #1 and was the top selling LP of 1973. The single from that collection, "Cisco Kid" shipped gold. Deliver The Word followed up with another pair of hit singles, "Gypsy Man" (#8) and "Me And Baby Brother" (#15) and moved two million units. Why Can't We Be Friends continued the trend with the singles "Low Rider" and the title track becoming two of their most successful releases. The 1967 greatest hits release included a new track, the stunningly beautiful composition "Summer".

After the release of a one-off jazz album for Blue Note Records and the album Galaxy with its hit title track in 1977, saxophonist Charles Miller was replaced by ex-Sly And The Family Stone member Pat Rizzo in 1979. Tragedy struck when Miller was shockingly  murdered in 1980. Another great loss was suffered when percussionist Papa Dee Allen died of a heart attack onstage in 1988.

You might have noticed the title of this post mentions The Low Rider Band (pictured top right-hand side). There is a good reason for this. It seems in` 1996 the band desired a change in management. In their attempt to separate from Jerry Goldstein they found themselves unable to retain the name War due to the fact it was a trademark owned by Goldstein and Far Out Productions. Consequently, the band adopted the name The Low Rider Band, which of course was a reference to one of their biggest hits. All except keyboardist Lonnie Jordan who opted to remain with Goldstein and put together a whole new band calling itself War. Given that The Low Rider Band contains all the surviving members of the group that made all of the artistic and commercial achievements of War, while the present band named War contains only Lonnie Jordan and a bunch of other guys, I felt that to write about War required that I reference The Low Rider Band because with Scott, Dickerson, Oskar and Brown as members, The Low Rider Band essentially is War. The present band named War is pretty much just Lonnie Jordan's War tribute band.

The musicians of War, Jordan included, left a huge indelible mark on the landscape of popular music. Thankfully, both bands are currently active.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Classic Axes - The Gibson Flying V

One of those axes that were just ahead of their time, the Gibson Flying V took a little while to be appreciated for its radical, made-for-rockin' design. The prototype, made of korina wood, was built in 1957 courtesy of designer Ted McCarty as part of a line of guitars along with the Futura and the Moderne, that was intended to add a more futuristic aspect to Gibson's image. The line was Introduced commercially in 1958 made of mahogany and rounded in the back. Sales were poor, and the line was discontinued in 1959. Gibson then changed the back, making it cut out instead of rounded which  made it lighter. Thus changed, blues-rock guitarist Lonnie Mack and blues legend Albert King started using the guitar immediately. By the mid-late sixties artists including Ray Davies of The Kinks and Jimi Hendrix used them looking for a distinctive looking and powerful sounding instrument. This created new interest in the guitar, prompting Gibson to re-issue the model in mahogany with a larger, more stylish pickguard and a stopbar bridge similar to the company's other guitars changed from the original bridge which strung the guitar from the back. Some models featured a short Vibrola  Maestro tremelo arm. This became the standard for all future Flying V guitars made by the company. Like all Gibson guitars the headstock is angled at 17 degrees for optimal string tension an sustain.
The guitar became a mainstay in rock circles with many other guitar companies offering variations on its design. The 1957-1958 korina wood models are one of the most valuable collector guitars in the world, worth between $200,000 and $250,000. A bass version was introduced in 1981 with only 375 being produced.
To follow are some notable Flying V users.


Friday, August 5, 2011

My Jimi Hendrix Experience Top Five

Another day, another list. This time I'd like to indulge my humbly opinionated self by sharing what I feel are the top five songs by The Jimi Hendrix Experience and why. You'll notice that I refer in this case to the band as opposed to Hendrix's later solo achievements. It seems that the
phenomena of his music is most often dealt with in terms of Hendrix himself while the other band members get the short end in terms of attention. Sure, they weren't Cream...but then they weren't supposed to be, were they? The Jimi Hendrix Experience was formed in a totally different way for totally different reasons no matter how much the two bands are compared with each other. Cream were three virtuosos who decided to play together while The Experience were recruited to back up Mr. Hendrix. Even so, Mitch Mitchell provided quite incredible drum work and Noel Redding performed the thankless job of providing melodic counterpoint to a brilliantly instinctive guitarist while holding the rhythm down with a rather busy drummer...on an instrument he never intended play, no less!
So here we are, my top five from the band in order of last to first.

"Remember" is from the British release of  Are You Experienced. A beyond tasteful, masterfully crafted pop song. It just doesn't sound much like pop because it was written by Jimi Hendrix.

"Little Wing"...a song of uncommon beauty topped off with an equally gorgeous solo. No wonder everyone wanted to cover it.

"Up From The Skies". Here the band nails a shuffle and makes it like no other. Credit the rhythm section on this one. Noel grips the song with an iron hand while Mitch delivers wickedly clever fills throughout.

"Manic Depression". One of the most distinctive songs in rock. The ascending tension-filled main riff, the innovative guitar and bass figures on the verses, The never-since-duplicated drum part Mitchell plays, the 6/8 time signature...all dead on.

And at #1..."Purple Haze". One has to marvel at the mind that places that nightmare intro line, that utterly psychotic guitar and bass figure following each verse, and that pleasantly disturbing guitar solo...all in the same song. An evil, evil masterpiece.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

The Buckinghams

British look, British name, all-American sound. That's as good a way as any to describe The Buckinghams, a rock-pop band formed in 1965 in Chicago, Illinois. This band was absolutely huge...for exactly one year, 1967.
The band was formerly known as The Pulsations and were the house band for WGN-TV's variety show All Time Hits in 1966. The show's producers suggested that the band adopt a name and look reflective of the British Invasion bands that were currently so popular. A security guard at the station suggested they call themselves The Buckinghams (obviously the station believed in giving EVERY employee a say in running the organization.) The band, as history shows, took the guard's suggestion with quite positive results.

The band signed to the locally-based USA Records in early 1966, and recorded a total of twelve songs including a Beatles cover "I Call Your Name",and "I'll Go Crazy",which was originally recorded by James Brown. It wasn't until the release of a song called "Kind Of A Drag", a composition by Chicago-based songwriter Jim Holvay, that they hit pay dirt. The song spent two weeks at #1 in February of 1967,sold over a million copies and went gold.
At this point the group consisted of Carl Giammarese on guitar, bassist Nick Fortuna, drummer John Polous, Marty Grebb on keyboards and vocalist Dennis Tufano. This was the line-up during their most successful period.

The band certainly wasted no time from that point, producing a total of five top 20 hits all in the year of 1967. These hits included 'Hey Baby They're Playing Our Song, "Don't You Care", "Susan" and a cover of "Mercy,Mercy" ,a composition of jazz legend Joe Zawinul and made famous by another jazz icon, Julian "Cannonball" Adderly. A very interesting choice for this very pop-oriented group.

The band got together with producer Jim Guercio, who helped get them signed to Columbia Records in early 1967, and as their producer developed the brass-oriented sound evident on the band's recordings. Guercio worked with them until mid-1968 when he left to further explore the "brass-rock" concept with Blood,Sweat and Tears and later on with the band Chicago.
Without Guercio, the band was unable to carry on the success they enjoyed in 1967. Several attempts at a hit and more than a few line-up changes preceded the band's dissolution in 1970.

The Buckinghams, as most of these bands tend to do, re-formed in 1983. They played numerous nostalgia tours and notably performed at one of George W. Bush's inaugural balls in 2005 as well as an inaugural ball in Chicago for president Barack Obama in 2009. Truly a non-partisan band, those Buckinghams. They still perform regularly for festival audiences and at the games of Chicago sports teams performing the National Anthem. As for me, my favorite Buckinghams song is "Susan".

Friday, July 29, 2011

Concrete Blonde

I love rock music. Always have. It brings me a joy that I can't describe. That being said, there are a handful of things about rock music that I'm none too crazy about. Topping that list is the way immensely talented artists can be practically ignored while talentless hacks find a way to take up precious space atop the charts. Taking the high road, I will not name any of those talentless hacks, but I will name a prime example of criminally underrated talent. I give you Concrete Blonde led by the transcendant Johnette Napolitano.

Singer/songwriter/bassist Napolitano formed the band Dream 6 with Guitarist James Mankey in Los Angeles in 1982. They released an eponymous EP in France on the Happy Hermit label. When they signed to IRS Records in 1986, labelmate Michael Stipe of R.E.M. suggested Concrete Blonde as a name for the band, describing the combination of their hard rock and introspective lyrics. "Concrete Blonde" is also a derogatory term applied to 80s hair metal bands. During an MTV interview, Napolitano said that she thought they were just two words that sounded good together. Drummer Harry Rushakoff joined the band for their debut self-titled IRS album. Rushakoff was replaced by ex-Roxy Music drummer Paul Thompson in time to record their sophomore release Bloodletting. Rushakoff rejoined the band in 2002 after the release of their Mexican Moon album but was dismissed shortly thereafter for missing shows. He was replaced by drummer Gabriel Ramirez.

The band's music can most easily be labeled as alternative rock fueled by Johnette Napolitano's singularly emotive voice which alternates between plaintive and snarling with an impressive range , particularly in the lower registers. Her songwriting is top-shelf, clever and catchy, showing a wide range of influences. With the added bonus of Mankey's beyond tasteful guitar work, they are a truly incandescent studio and live act.
The songs of Concrete Blonde did not escape the ears of several filmakers. The band's music was prominently featured in the 1987  film The Hidden, as well as appearing in 1986's Texas Chainsaw Massacre, 1991's Point Break and  the film Pump Up The Volume featured the exquisite "Everybody Knows".

The band's most successful album was 1990's Bloodletting which featured the top 20 hit "Joey". They broke up in 1993, reunited in 1997, and again in 2001, releasing the albums Group Therapy in 2002 and Mojave in 2004. Concrete Blonde finally disbanded officially in 2006.
Johnette Napolitano embarked on a series of solo and collaborative projects after the breakup. She also tours currently featuring many Concrete Blonde songs in her shows. She, along with Concrete Blonde have made a huge contribution to rock music as an art form and most importantly to its credibility and worth. And for that I humbly thank them.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Todd Storz

No, he's not a singer, guitarist, piano player or a musician at all for that matter. Well who is he,then ? Herein lies the story.
Todd Storz was born May 8, 1929 in Omaha,Nebraska , the grandson of beer brewing legend Gottlieb Storz. As a young man he became greatly interested in the medium of radio, becoming a ham radio enthusiast. He knew by then that radio was the business he wanted to be a part of. His father Robert, a man of considerable wealth, helped Todd buy a local radio station, KOWH in Omaha. Todd became the general manager and began his foray into the radio business. (Bear with me now, it gets there, trust me.)
Now at the time, radio programming consisted of  live music, dramatic series, and variety shows. Johnny Carson, Jack Benny, The Lone Ranger,Superman and so on were brought to America's homes via the radio. However, by the mid 1940s a little invention called television began to take hold with more and more families buying up tv sets. Inevitably, the personalities and programs left radio and migrated in short order to the video screen. Sponsors all but abandoned radio in the process.
Todd Storz, for his part was not about to have his radio career end before it had barely begun, and was determined to find a way to make radio viable again. Todd, a man who appreciated a good brew, frequently found himself in bars and restaurants. He noticed one day that customers would listen to the same song over and over. Let's say the song was "Pennies From Heaven". One after another  a different patron would drop in their coin and select "Pennies From Heaven". Then at closing time while cleaning up The waitress would go to the jukebox after listening to "Pennies From Heaven" all shift, drop in her coin and select..."Pennies From friggin' Heaven!
Seeing this ritual play itself out day after day, Todd realized that people liked to hear familiar songs over and over again. Maybe they would listen to the radio to hear their favorites repeated throughout the day! Todd immediately dumped the remaining programming from his station, researched by poll what songs people liked best, changed the station's format to all music with the occasional local news and weather and instructed his announcers to rotate a list of 40 songs compiled from his research throughout the day. This list was called....The Top 40. By the end of 1951, KOWH's  share of Omaha listeners went from 4 percent to 45 percent! While the rest of the industry dismissed this strange new programming initially, KOWH radio's continued success could finally no longer be ignored as stations across the country one by one adopted Todd Storz' music and news format.
Storz expanded his business into a stable of radio stations featuring his Top 40 format. His theory was not a new one. A half century earlier none other than Sigmund Freud put forth a "repetition compulsion" theory stating that it was human nature to try to repeat childhood experiences in order to work through adult problems. Psychologist John Mendelsohn postulated that the pleasure we get from entertainment comes in a large part from simple repetition of things that gave us pleasure in the past.
So a debt of gratitude is owed by Billboard, The Grammys, MTV, any artist who ever depended on airplay to sell records ,you and me to Todd Storz, the inventor, originator, the Father Of Top 40 Radio!
Todd Storz died at the height of his success April 13, 1964 of a stroke. He was 39.

An excellent book on radio as an enertainment medium is Something In The Air by Marc Fisher. It has the full story on Todd Storz and much more.

Friday, July 22, 2011

The Ohio Players

It was way back in the year 1959 that a band formed in Dayton,Ohio called the Ohio Untouchables (no matter where you're from geographically, this is an eminently cool name for a band). This band included Robert Ward on guitar and vocals, bassist Marshall "Rock" Jones, Clarence "Satch" Satchell on saxophone and guitar, drummer Cornelius Johnson  and Ralph "Pee Wee" Middlebrooks on trumpet and trombone. They were the backup band for the Detroit vocal group The Falcons until they broke up in 1963. The core group members returned to Dayton and re-formed adding Gregory Webster on drums and Leroy "Sugarfoot" Bonner on guitar. Bonner would eventually become the group's frontman. Adding two more singers, Bobby Lee Fears and Dutch Robinson, they became the house band for the New York based Compass Records in 1967.

 In 1970 the line-up changed again with Bonner, Satchell, Middlebrooks, Jones and Webster being joined by vocalist Charles Dale Allen, trumpeter Bruce Napier, trombonist Marvin Peirce and future Parliament-Funkadelic member William "Junie" Morrison on keyboards. By this time calling themselves The Ohio Players, they had a minor hit on the Westbound label with the song "Pain" which managed to make the top 40 RnB chart.

The first big hit for the band was "Funky Worm", a humorous and wickedly funky tune similar in approach to Kool And The Gang's equally delightful "Funky Man". This one went to #1 on the RnB chart and made the top 20 on Billboard's Top 100. Selling over a million copies, it went gold in May of 1973. Signing to Mercury Records in 1974, a further line-up change occurred with Billy Beck and Jimmy "Diamond" Williams replacing Morrison and Webster respectively. The band had seven top 40 hits between the years of 1973 and 1976 including "Skin Tight", "Fire" and the iconic "Love Rollercoaster" which along with "Fire" went to #1 on both the pop and RnB charts.

The group's last hit was "Who'd She Coo?" which was their only U.K. chart success, peaking at #43 .
Clarence Satchell died of a brain aneurysm on December 30, 1995. Ralph Middlebrooks passed away in November of 1997. Robert Ward died at home on December 25, 2008.
The band has most recently been touring billed as Sugarfoot's Ohio Players.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Moment I Knew I Knew They Were The Real Thing...

When I hear or see a performance, my impressions, like anyone's will vary. Sometimes I will dismiss the act as substandard. Other times I will think."hmm..not bad, these guys might do a little damage one day". Then there are those all too few times when you realize you are witnessing true brilliance, that this act is what I like to call  The Real Thing. It's difficult to determine the exact criteria for such a moment, but much like pornography, you know it when you see it. It's the moment when you know what you're watching is not merely a good performance, but the work of a rare talent. To follow are three acts and the point where my personal "Real Thing" moment occurred.

Michael Jackson's appearance on the Motown 25th Anniversary Special.
There is a reason that most Michael Jackson impersonators look comical and a bit pathetic...and that reason is simply that only Jackson himself was able to pull off those moves effectively. End of story. This was exactly the case with James Brown and Elvis. It was at this point that I realized this young man was one of the greatest musical performers popular music will ever see.
Real Thing Moment : No, not the moonwalk, too was the spin-to-frozen-pose he executed at 2:15...sublime.

"The Fairy Feller's Master Stroke/Nevermore" from Queen's second album Queen II. This band was never considered "progressive rock" simply because they hopped from genre to genre with giddy abandon, heavy metal here, dancehall there, disco, rockabilly, you name it. This selection proved early on what they were capable of. If you were familiar with Queen from their debut album on, then "Bohemian Rapshody" would have not surprised you one bit.
Real Thing Moment : at 1:01 they use the word "taterdemalion" in a rock song. These guys were so ahead of the curve it was ridiculous. (feel free to look it up)

It was the end of the 70s...and I for one was exhausted by all of the decade's stratopheric highs and bottom-of -the-barrel lows. As I drive home one night wondering what the 80's will bring, and if it even be worth it, this song comes on the radio. The guitar tone is unlike anything I've ever heard. The singer screams like Ian Gillan and sings like a drunken frat boy. The song itself is so simple it makes "Smoke On The Water" sound like "Watcher Of The Skies". It's "Running With The Devil" by Van Halen. Suddenly I can't wait for the 80's to begin.
Real Thing Moment : Eight pumps from a de-tuned bass guitar and at 0:18...The Riff!

Friday, July 8, 2011

The Young Rascals

It was 1965 in the town of Garfield, New Jersey when organist/vocalist Felix Cavaliere, vocalist/percussionist Eddie Brigati, guitarist Gene Cornish and drummer extraordinaire Dino Danelli formed The Young Rascals. All four were previously members of Joey Dee And The Starlighters of "Peppermint Twist" fame. At the time, however the group was actually called Them and was managed at the outset by Billy (Amato) Smith. Smith introduced the group to television and radio personality Soupy Sales and their initial work was as Sales' backing band using the name The Rascals. When they signed with Atlantic Records it was discovered that another band called The Harmonica Rascals objected to the group recording under the name The Rascals. Sid Bernstein, a well known manager and friend of Smith, began working with the group and changed their name to  The Young Rascals to avoid conflict. Exactly how the name change actually addressed the problem is unknown to this writer in that all three names had the word Rascals in it and later in the band's career they would again be known as The Rascals. Anyway, the group built up a large following at local clubs and eventually recorded their first single "I Ain't Gonna Eat Out My Heart Anymore" which they performed on their first tv appearance on the show Hullabaloo February 27,1965. The song touched the lower end of the U.S. charts but got to #23 in Canada.

This modest success was followed by a release in 1966 that went to #1 in the U.S. and Canada. This song was a remake of a 1965 hit for The Olympics called "Good Lovin'". At this point Cavaliere and Brigati began writing original material for the band starting with two follow-up singles "Come On Up" and "You Better Run", the latter being a future hit for Pat Benatar, although for The Young Rascals they barely charted.

The band was steadily developing their signature blue-eyed soul style and sound, becoming a potent and popular live act. This began to pay off as their 1967 release "I've Been Lonely Too Long" charted much higher than its predecessors and later that year "Groovin" returned them to the #1 spot in the U.S. and Canada.

The band were doing well in The U.S. and were extremely popular in Canada, although they struggled somewhat in the U.K. They continued to turn out a string of top 20 U.S. hits including "A Girl Like You", "How Can I Be Sure", and "A Beautiful Morning". In the U.K. only "Groovin" (#8) and "A Girl Like You" (#35) had any significant success. It was with their 1968 release of "It's Wonderful" that they would be billed as The Young Rascals for the last time, thenceforth to be known simply as The Rascals. Time Peace:The Rascals Greatest Hits topped the album charts in 1968 and that same year the single "People Got To Be Free" became their final #1 hit.

Other songs followed in the 1968-1969 period such as "See", "Hold On", and "Carry Me Back" and though they all hit the top 40, none went higher than #24. In Canada however, the band remained huge with all these songs hitting the top 10 and completing a string of 11 top 10 Canadian hits.
The group disbanded in 1970 with Cavaliere and Brigati going solo and Cornish and Danelli forming  and recording with first their band Bulldog and then Fotomaker, the latter producing two respectable power-pop styled albums. They are definitely worth seeking out. The band briefly reunited once in 1988 and again in 2010. They were inducted into The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame on May 6, 1997.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

One Song...Two Versions...My Take On Them

It was 1995 when I first heard the just -released song entitled "No More I Love Yous" by one of my favorite singers Annie Lennox. It was, as I have come to expect from her, a fine performance containing all the emotion, humour and out and out drama that defines Ms. Lennox's style. Huge fan here, from her time with the new wave band The Tourists where she did incredible justice to Dusty Springfield's "I Only Want To Be With You" (if you haven't heard it , by all means seek it out), through her Eurythmics period on up to her solo work. She is an uncommonly gifted performer with a facile flamboyance and sense of the dramatic few artists possess. In fact , I have always maintained that she is the only singer that should even have been considered as the late, great Freddy Mercury's successor in the band Queen. "No More More I Love Yous" was Annie in her element.

Then I found out that the song was a remake. Curious, I sought out the original which was by a group called The Lover Speaks. Turns out the song was written by group members Joseph Hughes and Dave Freeman and released in 1985. It went to #58 in the U.K. while Lennox's version won a Grammy Award for best female rock vocalist and was a huge hit in the U.S. and Europe. I finally listened to The Lover Speaks' version and my reaction was "Oi! This is the proper one!" Stripped of all the bells and whistles of the Lennox version including that giggly spoken middle eight , the original version grabs you at the outset with a beefy rock-funk bass and drum rhythm that never lets up, elegant in its simplicity, allowing the poignant lyrics about  giving up on love due to repeated pain to assume their rightful place front and center. Lennox's version is about performance art, The Lover Speaks' version is about the song.

Make no mistake, I am still a staunch Annie Lennox fan , but for this song The Lover Speaks gets the nod. It should have been a hit, not the answer to a trivia question.

Jerry Butler

When an entertainer's performance, be it a magician, baskeball player, actor or singer, is described as "effortless", we don't mean that there is a lack of effort or talent. "Effortless" refers to the fact that the entertainer is so talented and comfortable in their gifts that it only appears that they aren't trying when the reality is that they're giving you all they've got.
Jerry Butler's style is cool, smooth and seemingly effortless. There is no dancing, no shouting, just Jerry standing onstage unleashing his incredible baritone and holding the audience in the palm of his hand. he doesn't even sweat, for cryin' out loud!
This is why the late legendary Philadelphia disc jockey/activist Georgie Woods dubbed him "The Iceman" and the nickname stuck as he became one of RnB's most  enduring talents.

His family migrated from Mississippi to Chicago where he grew up in the Cabrini-Green projects. He met Curtis Mayfield, another member of the church choir Butler sang in. In addition Jerry Butler performed in the gospel quartet The Northern Jubilee Singers, also with Mayfield. Strongly inspired by Sam Cooke And The Soul Stirrers,The Five Blind Boys Of Mississippi, and The Pilgrim Travelers, Butler and Mayfield formed The Roosters, a six -member group that later became The Impressions.

The Impressions auditioned
for Chess and Vee Jay Records, ultimately signing with Vee Jay. They recorded their first song for the label, a Jerry Butler composition called "Your Precious Love". It became their first hit, went gold and remains one of the most beautiful, evocative songs ever put to a master tape. It was released in 1958 and went to #11 pop and #3 RnB. Butler also wrote "I've Been Loving You Too Long" which became a classic in the hands of one Otis Redding.

Butler left the Impressions  to go solo leaving the lead singing and writing responsibilities in what proved to be the extremely capable hands of Curtis Mayfield. As a solo artist he had a string of hits, including "He Will Break Your Heart", "Only The Strong Survive", "Moon River", "Dream Merchant" and "Moody Woman". His collaboration with Philadelphia songwriters Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff  was a huge factor in his hitmaking success, with Butler becoming a large contributor to the legendary "Philly Sound".

Jerry Butler produced two very successful albums, The Iceman Cometh which garnered three Grammy nominations, and Ice On Ice. He is also one of the few music greats to also have a career in politics, serving as a Cook County Commisioner from the early 80s up to today. He, along with The Impressions were inducted into The Rock And Roll  Hall Of Fame in 1991. He still takes to the road occasionally as well as television appearances.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Three Days Grace

In my ongoing battle against Dad's Disease, my staunchest ally is my grandson Jai. For the uninitiated, Dad's Disease is a dreaded malady that causes old farts like myself to not only believe that the music of their generation was the only worthwhile music ever made, but also feel the compulsion to utter such beliefs out loud to anyone in earshot. The name of this sickness was coined by a fellow blogger, Music Obsessive, who authors a blog of the same name that everyone should check out and follow. I thank him for putting a name to this chronic condition.
As I said, my grandson Jai, wise beyond his years, has convinced me to look at the more recent bands with an open mind. In the spirit of "all things rockin' from then to NOW", I submit for your consideration an exceedingly rockin' group of gentlemen calling themselves Three Days Grace.
They were formed in Norwood, Ontario in Canada in 1992, originally under the name Groundswell, broke up in 1997 and regrouped later the same year this time as Three Days Grace. Starting out as a trio, they were guitarist/vocalist Adam Guntier, drummer Neil Sanderson and bassist Brad Walst. Guitarist Barry Stock was added in 2003 and the line-up stands the same today. The band had become acquainted with producer Gavin Brown, who helped the band record a demo which they shopped around catching the attention of several record companies. EMI Music expressed a desire to hear more material, so Brown and the band recorded what would be their break-out single, "I Hate Everything About You" (a rock and roll sentiment if there ever was one) . The band finally signed to Jive Records after being sought out by the label's president.

The band's self-titled debut album was released July 22,2003 to favorable reviews. Including the hit "I Hate Everything About You", and accompanied by extensive touring, it went platinum in the U.S. and double platinum in Canada. It was later in 2003 that Barry Stock joined the band. Two more singles from the album were released, "Just Like You" and the riff -heavy stomper "Home".

After a break taken by the band to allow singer Adam Guntier time to rehabilitate from an addiction he developed to pain killers, they went to work on their sophomore album, One -X. This collection contained at least five songs written by Guntier while in rehab,"Over And Over","Gone Forever","Pain","Never Too Late" and the single, "The Animal I've Become". This album features a bit more in terms of shifting dynamics and diverse writing. It is a definite progression from the first album.
Released on June 13,2006 , One -X also went platinum in the U.S. and double platinum in Canada.

Life Starts Now, the third Three Days Grace album, was released September 22, 2009. This one debuted at #3 on the Billboard charts. The band seemed to depart from the darkness of their previous efforts while retaining the powerful riff-heavy style they've cultivated over their career. A more rock-anthemic tone overall is the result. It is on this album that in my opinion, their highest-achieving song appears. That song is "Break".

Three Days Grace definitely rocks. They display a deep appreciation for the groove, pleasantly massive guitar tones and a rhythm section that effectively pounds their message home. Topped off with Guntier's perfectly servicable rock and roll shout, this band would seem to have a compete package. I, for one, am happy to have encountered the work of Three Days Grace.
Jai, you've done it again lad!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Dave Clark Five

Tottenham is a suburb just north of London. In 1960 this town was home to  a local soccer team, The Tottenham Highspurs. It is to this team that we owe a debt of gratitude for the second big British Invasion group after The Beatles to storm American  shores. This soccer team was in a financial bind prompting one of the players, Dave Clark to start a band in order to make some money. Clark brought himself a set of drums, taught himself to play them and put together the group that would become The Dave Clark Five.
They started out as The Dave Clark Quartet, Clark on drums, guitarist Dave Sanford, bassist Chris Walls, and keyboardist/arranger Don Vale. They were originally the backing band for North London singer Stan Saxon. As time went on, the group played more and more on their own , slowly building a local following.

Sanford, Walls and Vale left the band over time to be replaced by Lenny Davidson, Rick Huxley, and Mike Smith respectively with the addition of  Dennis Payton on saxophones. Mike Smith took over lead vocalist duties when the band eventually split with Saxon in 1962. It was in February of 1964 that the band, after several misses, had a huge hit with the song "Glad All Over" which knocked the Beatles' "I Wanna Hold Your Hand " out of the #1 spot on the U.K. singles chart. The song peaked at #6 in the U.S. Shortly after they became the second British Invasion act to appear on The Ed Sullivan Show where they performed the hit. This would be the first of 18 subsequent appearances on the show.

After the success of the Beatles' film A Hard Days Night, The Dave Clark Five released their own film Catch Us If You Can, which was directed by John Boorman. The U.S. release of the film was titled Having A Wild Weekend. The band was promoted as representatives of "The Tottenham Sound" as a response to "The Mersey Beat" sound of Brian Epstein's stable of acts. They were a successful touring act, one of the first, in fact from Britain to extensively tour the U.S. They were also touted as a "cleaner" version of the Beatles, even though in appearance and musical influence they were quite similar, and their sound actually a bit rougher than the Fab Four.

It should be noted that Dave Clark, in addition to forming, leading and writing for this band, he was also the manager and executive producer of The Dave Clark Five. He formed a media company and negotiated business deals that among other things allowed him production control and ownership of all the group's master tapes, which any astute  musical artist will tell you, is one of the first rules in being successful in this particular vocation. Musical creation and the business of music are two very different animals, the taming of one has no bearing on the ability to tame the other as too many musicians have learned to their regret. Dave Clark was one of the few musicians who had the opportunity and ability to look after the band's interests.

Hits like "Because", "Bits And Pieces", "I Like It Like That" and "Over And Over" kept the Dave Clark Five at or near the top of the charts from 1963 to 1970 when the group disbanded. All told, they had 17 hits in the U.S. They were actually a bigger attraction in the U.S. than in their native England for that period, but enjoyed a bit of a renaissance in the U.K. during the period of  1967 to 1970. On December 17,2006 saxophonist  Dennis Payton died after a lengthy battle with cancer at the age of 63. Keyboardist/vocalist Mike Smith returned to performing putting together Mike Smith's  Rock Engine in 2003. They did two short tours in the U.S. and Smith made an appearance on Late Night With David Letterman substituting for bandleader Paul Schaffer as Schaffer himself was the guest host that night. In September of 2003 Smith suffered a spinal cord injury from a fall at his home leaving him paralyzed from the neck down. On February 28,2008 he died of pneumonia. Two weeks later on March 10,2008, The Dave Clark Five were inducted into The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

My Chuck Berry Top Five

If I may, I submit to you the five best songs Chuck Berry ever recorded (in my humble, though greatly informed opinion, of course). The songs are ranked in order of greatness. Thank you very much.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011


Their name is derived from the theory of De-evolution, the concept of which is society , instead of evolving with time to a higher consciousness, it instead goes backward resulting in what they see as the dysfunction and herd mentality society exhibits today. Food for thought indeed, but this blog is about all things rockin' and as such , this band would not appear here unless they rocked...and they did. using sometimes atonal melodies, robotic beats and plenty of synthesiser all filtered through the mind of the geek misfit, they were an influence on acts such as Art Of Noise, They Might Be Giants, Rammstein and even Lady Gaga.

Formed in 1972 by Kent State art students Jerry Casale and Mark Mothersbaugh, on bass and synthesizer respectively with both as vocalists. They were rounded out with Bob Casale (Bob 1) and Bob Mothersbaugh (Bob 2) on guitars and Alan Myers on drums. They released their first single "Mongoloid" b/w "Jocko Homo" on their own independent label Booji Boy. This was followed in 1977 by an utterly insane re-working of The Rolling Stones' classic "Satisfaction".

The band's mix of discordant pop, deadpan surrealist humor, cheesy science fiction themes and satirical social commentary caught the attention of many, including David Bowie and Iggy Pop who got behind the band and helped them get signed to Warner Brothers Records. Bowie was set to produce their first album but had to pull out due to prior obligations. Brian Eno ended up producing the album entitled  Q. Are We Not Men? A. We Are Devo, which contained re-recordings of  "Mongoloid" and "Jocko Homo", as well as "Satifaction". An appearance on the tv show Saturday Night Live October 4,1978 gained them national exposure.

The band's follow-up album, Duty Now For The Future, saw the band delve deeper into electronic music, and while not a major success, it contained some fan favorites such as "Blockhead" and a cover of the Johnny Rivers hit "Secret Agent Man", songs they performed on Don Kirshner's Rock Concert later that year. A higher level of visibility was gained in 1980 with the release of the next album Freedom Of Choice which featured their break-out hit "Whip It" as well as popular songs "Gates Of Steel" and the title track. More tv appearances on shows like American Bandstand and Fridays did much to spread the word.

In 1981 the next album New Traditionalists contiunued the band's popularity, containing stand out tracks like "Through Being Cool" and "Beautiful World" with accompanying videos containing sharp social commentary. The album was shipped with a bonus disc upon which was a cover of "Working In The Coal Mine", the old Jimmy Dorsey hit done surprisingly faithful (for this group) to the original. This would prove to be the peak of the band's success as subsequent releases met with diminishing commercial and critical response.

Outside of a few bright spots, such as the theme song to the movie Doctor Detroit, and a harder rocking re-recording of "Girl U Want" for the movie Tank Girl, there seemed to be little steam left in the Devo machine. Mark Mothersbaugh had some success writing theme songs for tv, the most notable being Pee Wee's Playhouse, but by 1984 the band began a cycle of changing personell, break-ups and re-formations, ultimately fading from the scene until 2007, when their songs appeared on the video games Rock Band and Rock Band 2. Highly influential, many later bands have adopted Devo's formula and expanded on it , creating an entire rock sub-genre. Devo itself still occasionally perform one-off shows and short tours.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Soul Train

As announcer Sid McCoy would intone in the opening credits, Soul Train was indeed "The hippest trip in America". It was also Sid informed us, the longest running nationally syndicated show in history and will remain so unless the next show in line, Entertainment Tonight stays on the air until at least 2016. If not, it may possibly be overtaken in 2017 by the game show Wheels Of Fortune. Soul Train aired in syndication from October 1971 to March 2006. During this time practically every act with a top selling R'n'B ,soul or funk hit appeared on the show, many of them multiple times. The engine that drove the show was The Soul Train Dancers. The conductor, at least during the years that counted, was one Don Cornelius.
Don Cornelius was a news reader and disc jockey in Chicago circa 1965 for radio station WVON. In 1967 he was hired by tv station WCIU as a news and sports reporter. He also was promoter and emcee for a series of local dance shows. These shows caught the attention of the station and Cornelius was invited to bring them  to television. After getting sponsorship from the Sears And Roebuck Co., the show, called Soul Train aired on WCIU-TV on August 17 1970 as a live weekday afternoon show.

The show's success attracted the attention of another local company, The Johnson Products Co., maker of Ultra Sheen and Afro Sheen hair products. They agreed to co-sponsor the show's move to syndication. Cornelius along with the show's syndication company Syndicast targeted 24 cities for syndication. The show aired October 2,1971 and by the end of the first season was on in all 24 targeted markets. The show,now weekly, was picked up by CBS-owned WBBS-TV, and operations were shifted to the Los Angeles where it remained for the duration of the show's run. Syndicast remained the syndication company until 1985 when Tribune Entertainment took over.

Soul Train's identity was determined by a few enduring elements. One was the Scramble Board, where one dance couple was chosen to re-arrange randomly placed letters on a magnetic board to spell out the name of , as Don would say, "a famous artist whose name you should know". While the couple worked on this, a recorded hit would play and the audience at home could yell things at the tv like, "come on you idiots, it's The Bar Kays", or some such.

Another element was the group of dancing couples that were featured during the recorded songs. They were alternately known as The Soul Train Dancers and The Soul Train Gang. During the years people such as Rosie Perez, Nick Cannon, Carmen Electra, Jermaine Stewart, and MC Hammer were first noticed among their ranks. Jody Watley and Jeffrey Daniels, two former dancers, went on to fame as part of the group Shalamar with Howard Hewlitt, and in Watley's case, as a solo artist. These dancers, many of them professional, were watched by young people in all markets keeping up with the latest in dance and clothing styles. The Soul Train Line, another of the show's defining elements was made up of two single lines formed by the dancers while a couple or a single dancer would dance down the length of the space between them. This was where the best dancers highlighted their technique.

The greatest identifying element of all was the face and voice of the show, the inimitable, and later to be proven irreplaceable Don Cornelius. He combined a towering presence with a booming baritone voice that announced the hits as "a groove that definitely makes you wanna move", or "a big'un everybody's sure 'nuff diggin' ". He brought many years of announcing experience to the table as well as definitively cool demeanor. He hosted the show until 1993, remaining a creative force behind the scenes for the remainder of its run. Succeeding hosts were comedian Mystro Clark, actor Shemar Moore, and actor Dorian Gregory. The sad simple fact is, when Don left he took the show's personality with him.

Soul Train stands as an icon in rock music history. Countless artists were brought into millions of homes by this influential show. The spin-off Soul Train Awards and Soul Train Lady Of Soul Awards shows gave recognition to the best and the brightest in the genre. Mr. Cornelius said it best..."and as always in parting we wish you love, peace and soul".