On This Day – One Hit, No Wonder Laurie!

On this day in 1958 Laurie London hit the number one spot in the USA with “He’s Got The Whole World n His Hands”.

It was the one and only time he troubled the top 100 in the states, or any else, much – although he might have been quite big in Germany….

Laurie was 13 when he recorded the dismally up beat, up tempo, get’s up your nose  happy clappy record (I am not a fan).

Laurie was not our only successful young teen export to the USA about that time. Jackie Dennis wore a kilt and had spikey hair (is that where Axl got his look?). He was 14 when he recorded ‘La Dee Dah’.

Here’s Jackie at the ripe old age of 15 after he’s found out that boys wear trousers, not skirts…..

This is Laurie doing his best……

It seems that Laurie finally gave up hopes of a long term career in music (good choice) and owned and ran a hotel in the south of England before selling up and moving to London. Jackie is, apparently, a care worker and is happily married. If the comments on YouTube are anything to go by he is a bit of a character and well loved.

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On This Day – Ashes to Ashes Jerry Garcia

On this day in 1996 some of Jerry Garcia’s ashes were scattered into the bay by the Golden Gate Bridges, San Francisco. The rest had been scattered into the Ganges river at Rishikesh on 4th April (Rishikesh being a holy place for hindus at the foot of the Himalayas and where the Ganges leaves the mountains and begins it long journey to the sea bringing life to large areas of North Eastern India).

Garcia had died of a heart attack at a drug rehab clinic where he was trying, again, to beat his drug habit. Garcia had well known issues with various drugs over a long period. He also had other health conditions, he had fallen into a diabetic coma in 1986. He also suffered from sleep apnea. Not a well bunny in fact.

Best known for his work with The Grateful Dead Garcia undertook several side projects the low point of which is surely playing pedal steel guitar on “Teach Your Children” by Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young. (In my book having anything to do with anything by CSN&Y is a career low for anybody). He worked with a whole range of people including Dylan, Warren Zevon, Country Joe McDonald, Ornette Coleman and many, many others.

With The Grateful Dead he played and toured for 30 years (the so called “Endless Tour”). The touring was only punctuated by rests due to ill health and exhaustion. There is a gig count doing the rounds that puts the total Dead gigs at 2,314. No wonder they were occasionally exhausted and resorted to stimulants……….

A phenomenal guitarist and performer.

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On This Day – The Stones, Decadent and Awful!

On this day in 1976 the Rolling Stones played 2 concerts in the Palace of Culture and Science building in Warsaw, Poland as part of their European tour. It was the first time the Stones had played behind the Iron Curtain. It was also the last tour that included Brian Jones.

The tickets were handed out to Communist Party members – apparently much to the surprise of the band. I think that the only surprising thing was that the band was surprised. Anyway, the audience was instructed on how to behave. It is true to say that visiting Soviet officials were not impressed with the show. They thought that the Stones were decadent and awful.

On their part, the Stones, fake surprise or not, drove round the streets to give away copies of their records to fans after the show. Whether this was a real gesture of protest or a rather good publicity stunt is not known.

It would be a long time before the Stones visited communist bloc countries again.

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On This Day – Nat King Cole Attacked

On this day in 1956 Nat King Cole was attacked while on stage in Birmingham Alabama. He was attacked by a group of white segregationists (otherwise known as scum “Stupid Caucasian Uneducated Morons”).  They were upset that a couple of years before there had been a landmark ruling (Brown Vs Board of Education).  That case had mandated the desegregation of all public schools.  The men who stormed the stage that night were some of the remaining members of the White Citizens’ Council.  The council had grown quickly when it was formed in 1954 but then dwindled.

This was not Nat King Cole’s first brush with racism, how could it be in the atmosphere of 1950s USA?  Remember that in spite of the desegregation law passed by the Truman administration in 1948 the US army did not announce plans to act on the law until 1951 and it was was segregated units fighting liberty and justice in Korea.

Cole had been the first black TV presenter but the show was pulled when he could not get a sponsor for nationwide broadcasting in 1957.  He was also subject to objections and abuse when he moved into the fashionable (rich) area of Beverly Hills, but he refused to move.

On this day Cole was told that there would be trouble but he still decided to go on stage.  When at 7 o’clock he strode onto stage where the UK’s Ted Heath band (mainly white) was waiting to accompany him there was a fair amount of tension back stage.  The security was tight with local police being very visible.  A little way into the show the trouble began and Cole had to leave the stage.

After 30 or 40 minutes he returned to complete the show.

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On This Day – Sonny Boy Arrives, For The First Time

On this day in 1914 Sonny Boy Williamson was born.

Sonny Boy was a hugely influential blues harmonica player. Arguably all the present blues harmonica players have been influenced to a greater or lesser extent. None more so than Sonny Boy Williamson.

In fact Sonny Boy Williamson was so influential that Sonny Boy Williamson copied Sonny Boy Williamson.

Confused? Don’t worry many avid blues fans have been, and still are, confused by just who is playing when they listen to Sonny Boy Williamson.

Let me explain. The Sonny Boy Williamson born today in 1914 was the original and his birth name was John Lee Curtis Williamson in Jackson Tennessee. He died on 1st June 1948 after being mugged in Chicago. In between he forged a harmonica style that has changed the world of music. He also wrote performed some of the seminal blues songs of the 20th century. His biggest selling song was a massive race record hit (remember, before the 60s in the States the blues and rhythm and blues were thought not to be fit for white people) was “Good Morning Little Schoolgirl”

Good Morning Little Schoolgirl has been recorded by John Lee Hooker, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Mississippi Fred McDowell, Muddy Waters, Doctor Ross, The Grateful Dead, Ten Years After, Johnny Winter, Yardbirds, Rolling Stones among many, many more.

Back to the point of this blog…….

So, Sonny Boy was hugely popular and living and recording in Chicago. Over in Arkansas There was harmonica player called Rice Miller (although he may have been born as Aleck Ford, or Rice Ford, or Aleck Miller, no one is really sure and as to his date of birth just don’t get me started….) Rice Miller appeared on the radio and played in a similar style to Sonny Boy. The radio shows sponsors was King Biscuits.

Arkansas is quite a way away from Chicago and though Sonny Boy’s recoreds were popular there was little chance that he would come to Arkansas to play. To King Biscuit it seemed obvious, call Rice Miller Sonny Boy Williamson and pretend (or least not deny) that it was the real Sonny Boy on their radio show! Strangely, it worked. Sonny Boy never sued over the hijacking of his name (but then Rice Miller did not record as Sonny Boy while Sonny Boy was alive – if you see what I mean). They both just got on with it. After Sonny Boy died Rice Miller recorded as Sonny Boy Williamson II. The trouble is that there are still compilations out there that get the 2 mixed up.

Look on the bright side, they were both great harmonica players, just enjoy the music!

People are still getting them mixed up. This is Rice Miller (Sonny Boy Williamson II) with the song thatgave a great band its name.

With Muddy Waters “Got My Mojo Working”

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On This Day – Lou Bitten

On this day in 1973 Lou Reed was playing in Buffalo, New York. A fan scrambled up on stage shouted “Leather!” and bit Lou on the Bum.

OK, so it is not the most important ‘On This Day’ that I will ever write but I did miss Lou’s birthday (2nd March) and so will have to wait a year before I can do a big piece on him.

1973 was a year after Transformer and Berlin was not released until July ’73 so this would have been at a concert in support of Transformer. The backing band was The Tots who were;

VINNY LAPORTA, guitar
EDDIE REYNOLDS, guitar
BOBBY RESIGNO, bass
SCOTTIE CLARK, drums

Not sure what happened to the members of the band but here they are with Lou in 1973 (any info about them please let me know, I gather that Laporta was still playing up until 2007).

Lou Reed Live Olympia Theatre, Paris 1973, Walk On The Wild Side , Heroin and White Light, White heat. This is from the “Berlin” tour with the Wagner & Hunter band. Wonderful.

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My 100 Essential Albums – 17 Berlin by Lou Reed

Berlin by Lou Reed is his greatest album

berlin

Released in 1973 this is a superb Album. I am biased as I love Lou Reed and all his works, well, the majority of his works I have Metal Machine Music but can not say that I play it. However Berlin is a wonderful album, it is the sort of album that you want everyone to listen to because it is that good.

On its release the critical response was mixed to say the least, Rolling Stone called it a “disaster”. However, in the UK it reached number 7, which goes to prove what a discerning lot we are. It only reached number 98 in the States, which says something about their tastes……..Since its release Berlin has grown in reputation and stature and came in at number 344 in the Rolling Stone list of the top 500 albums of all time. A miserly rating for such a great album.

There are some justified comments about Berlin that critics seize upon. There is not a lot of original material. Most of the songs have been heard before in various reincarnations. Berlin made its first appearance on his first solo album, but it is very much reworked here. Caroline Says II is actually Stephanie Says from VU days. Sad Song and Men of Good Fortune were played by The Velvet Underground. Having said that Lou reworked existing material for his first two albums and Berlin is no different.

What is different is that Berlin was a “rock opera” – a dreadful term. It tells the story of a failing relationship. It deals with dark themes including prostitution, drug use, domestic violence and suicide. This is no a happy album. It is not an easy listen, looking at my list of essential albums not that many are easy, Berlin is the only one that has kids crying on it, though! However, Berlin does have some sublimely beautiful moments in it. It is a quality album and well deserves its inclusion in this list of essential albums.

 

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My 100 Essential Albums – 16 – The Punk Singles Collection, The Adverts

A compilation of singles by The Adverts the 16th of my Essential Albums

 

The Adverts were a short lived punk band formed in 1976 and gone by the end of 1978. What singled the Adverts out was the quality of the lyrics written by the excellent TV Smith and that they had Gaye Advert as a member. Gaye was called the “first female punk star”, but I would have thought that Souxie Sioux had something to say about that!

This is a great punk album. It has their first single “One Chord Wonders” and the attitude that made punk so refreshing.

 “I wonder what we’ll play for you tonight

Something heavy or something light

Something to set your soul alight

I wonder how we’ll answer when you say

‘We don’t like you – go away

Come back when you’ve learnt to play.”

Also on this compilation is the other single that everyone remembers from The Adverts , Gary Gilmore’s Eyes. Gilmore was an American murderer who wanted his eyes to be donated to science. Obviously, some of the music press – let alone the Daily Mail – did not react well. Sounds called it “the sickest and cleverest record to come out of the new wave” reflecting the clever lyrics that were typical of Smith’s work.

Fame was fleeting for The Adverts. A couple of well received albums followed together with some supreme singles (on this album) that failed to bother the charts. I particularly like “Safety in Numbers”. After the death of their manager and threatened by lawsuits from disgruntled ex members the band sort of dissolved although TV Smith continued with a solo career.

Their legacy? Dave Thompson author and music critic said “nobody would make music like The Adverts and nobody ever has. In terms of lyric, delivery, commitment and courage, they were, and they remain, the finest British group of the late 1970s” I could not put it better myself.

 

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My 100 Essential Albums – 15 – It’s A Beautiful Day , by It’s A Beautiful Day

It’s A Beautiful Day , a supreme summer of love album, with attitude

its a beautiful day

Released in 1969 this is a tremendous album that rewards repeated listening and I can not imagine being parted from it for any length of time.  Perhaps that is a quick definition of an essential album.  When I picked up the album in a record shop I dismissed the claim on the back cover that David LaFlamme played violin like Hendrix played guitar. I was wrong.

Looking back it may seem strange that I loved this album while also loving Velvet Underground and Beefheart, but I do not think that it is that strange. It’s A Beautiful Day sounds like a quintessential Summer of Love album, but it isn’t. The songs have an edge. White bird was written by LaFlamme and his wife while living in a cold and wet Seattle while they were broke and had little food. “Girl With No Eyes” is beautiful love song but so sad. Other tracks are not Summer of Love at all even though It’s A Beautiful day were saddled with that association. “Wasted Union Blues”, “Bombay Calling” and “Bulgaria” all show the power of the band.

The stand out track is “Time Is” a lovely evocation of love. The intertwining voices of LaFlamme and the remarkable Patti Santos, sadly no longer with us, sums up It’s A Beautiful Day for me. A band of power and beauty, and a remarkably good live band. I saw them at Them at The Bath Festival of Blues and Progressive Music bizarrely held at Shepton Mallet in 1970. It’s A Beautiful Day more than held their own against the other bands appearing that included; Led Zeppelin, The Keef Hartley band (who were wonderful), Zappa and the remarkable Hot Tuna.

Those listening to It’s A Beautiful day for the first time may think that they recognise “Bombay Calling”. It is perfectly possible because it was used by Deep Purple as a basis for “Child in Time”.

 

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My 100 Essential Albums – 14 – Bitches Brew, Miles Davis

Bitches Brew Number 14 of My 100 Essential Albums

 

The Wonderful Bitches Brew

Released in 1970 Bitches Brew is a revolutionary album.  Davis moved from his previous “cool” and “modal” style into a freer, more rhythmic, improvising style.  To be honest I had not listened to much, if any, of Davis’ work before this.  I did not know that the use of multiple electric pianos, guitars, two or three drummers and two basses was revolutionary.  I just adored the noise that they made.  The expanded rhythm section provided a solid base for the soloists.

I did not appreciate it at the time but Bitches Brew included many wonderful musicians.  Mind you they had to be wonderful to be able to record this album.  The album itself took just 3 days to record and the musicians were called in at short notice.  As for rehearsals, there were a few, but not many.  It seems that the players were given a few hints about tempo, a few chords, maybe a hit of the melody.  Apart from some comments about the mood that was it.  Davis wanted to work like this so that the musicians had toi listen to each other while they played and give each other space.  It was very spontaneous and you can here Davis saying “keep it tight” at times.

In many ways I was prepared for this album, what with my love of Beefheart.  Trout Mask Replica had come out the year.  After TMR Bitches Brew, shunned by many of the more traditional jazz followers, seemed normal to me.  Normal in a very special way that is.

Bitches Brew opened doors for me into jazz and that would make this one of my essential albums, even if Bitches Brew did not stand up on its own as a fine album.  Through it I started investigating jazz and found Sun Ra, Coltrane, Chick Corea and others.  My life would be much less rich without this magnificent album.  All hail Bitches Brew, a gift to us all.

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