Friday, February 28, 2014

Uni Records: My Precious World (The Man)

Jamaican artist Demond Dekker with and without The Aces released three singles on Uni Records in 1969 and 1970. Originally released on Pyramid Records in Dekker’s native Jamaica in 1968, his only hit in America was “Israelites”; it peaked at #9 during the summer of 1969. The flip side, credited to Desmond Dekker and His Aces, had a misidentification as well a different version of the same song that appeared on the original Jamaican 45.

The original “B” side was Beverley’s All Stars’ instrumental “The Man.” This version of the “B” Side was also was released in the UK. In the US, “The Man” was augmented by lyrical content and vocals by Desmond Dekker; however, it is not The Aces who are backing Dekker but rather Beverley’s All Stars. As the lyrics dictate, the title has been amended to become “My Precious World (The Man).” It’s quite a nice soul ballad and I hope you like it.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Uni Records: Border Song

In April 1970, the “Elton John” album was released in the US and it subsequently peaked on the Billboard album charts at #4. Not bad for an artist who was unknown in the US until this release. John’s first album from 1969, “Empty Sky,” would not reach North American audiences until 1975.

While Elton John was signed to Dick James Music (DJM Records) in the UK, the label attempted to make a dent in the US in 1968. DJM even released Elton John’s first US single: “Lady Samantha”; however, it failed to chart.

Seeing some potential in John, MCA picked up his North American option and initially released two singles on Congress before moving him over to the higher profile Uni Records. Congress originally was a subsidiary label of Kapp and both labels had come under Uni’s control in 1967.

In addition to another unsuccessful release of “Lady Samantha” in March 1970, the second Congress single, “Border Song,” was issued the following month and it too received a chilly reception. Re-released in July 1970, “Border Song” peaked at #34 in Canada; however, this gospel tinged ballad only made it to #92 in the US.

Holy Moses! Even at #92, it did better than it did in Elton John’s native land, as it failed to chart in the UK. The last verse, which was written by Elton John and not by lyricist Bernie Taupin, indicates that the song is about bigotry.

I love the production on these early Elton John albums – as they had a rich and full sound. Paul Buckmaster’s arrangements have always been appealing. Boy, I haven’t listened to this LP in a long time – I need to get it out more.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Uni Records: Banks of the Ohio

Uni Records was not known for a plethora of acoustic music, so finding a Wooden Wednesday selection was a little difficult; however, Olivia Newton-John charted with a recording of a 19th century American murder ballad.

“Banks of the Ohio” was Olivia’s second single for Uni and was released in October 1971. The song peaked only at #94 on the pop charts and crossed over to the Adult Contemporary chart at #34. “Banks of the Ohio” appeared on two American albums: “If Not for You” and “Olivia” – which was different than the “Olivia” album issued elsewhere in the world.

Although sporting the same cover and title as her international release, the American issue of “Olivia” was quite different musically. Six of its 10 tracks were repacked from “If Not for You” and only two songs originally appeared on the international version of the “Olivia” album.

The “If Not for You” album was released on Uni in 1971 while “Olivia” was issued on the newly formed MCA Records label in 1973. The “Olivia” album featured five songs that had been released as singles: “If Not for You,” “Banks of the Ohio,” “Take Me Home, Country Roads,” “Just a Little Too Much,” and “Let Me Be There.” The only single up to this point that was missing was “What is Life,” and it had appeared on the international version of “Olivia.” “What is Life” would not appear on an American album until 1992.

Her first American single, Bob Dylan’s “If Not for You,” and her third single, George Harrison’s “What is Life,” both had pop arrangements; however, this second Uni single was a country recording by anyone’s standards. Neither albums’ liner notes reveal the name of the backing vocal group on this release, but their style is in an Oak Ridge Boys/Statler Brothers’ vein.

The song also features a high-strung guitar which was typical for Nashville productions of that day although the single was recorded in London. It’s a wonder that “Banks of Ohio” didn’t chart on the country music side of things, as seven of her later hits were Top 10 country records.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Uni Records: Love Unlimited Twofer

Not generally considered a soul label, Uni Records signed a number of R&B artists including the trio: Love Unlimited, which had two Top 40 singles in the 1970s; however, only one was on the Uni label: “Walking in the Rain with the One I Love.” It’s one of our Tuesday Twofers for our fourth week label special.

“Walking in the Rain with the One I Love” was Love Unlimited’s highest mainstream hit charting at #14. This 1972 hit also placed at #6 on the R&B chart. The song was composed by Barry White and was produced by White and Gene Page. Yes, I believe that’s Barry White’s voice on the telephone.

Love Unlimited was a family group featuring sisters Glodean and Linda James and their cousin Diane Taylor. Glodean would later become the future Mrs. Barry White. In 1973, White moved Love Unlimited over to 20th Century Records where they would have the #1 R&B hit “I Belong to You.” The trio disbanded in 1975 following the death of Diane Taylor. The name, however, would be retained by Barry White for the incarnation of his Love Unlimited Orchestra.

For our second Uni Records/Love Unlimited Twofer, I present a single that perhaps you’ve never heard. “Another Chance,” written by Barry White and Tom Brocker, was the group’s third single for Uni. Unfortunately, it never charted. I really love this cut and its production – it’s so indicative of the Barry White sound – a recitation, lush strings, a harp, and a Coral electric sitar. It’s so 70s soul to a “T” that it’s almost campy in 2014. Good stuff – too bad it received virtually no airplay.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Uni Records: Grazing in the Grass

Only four singles issued on Uni Records made it to the #1 spot on the Billboard charts. Uni’s first number one was The Strawberry Alarm Clock’s “Incense and Peppermints” in 1967. The last two were recorded by Neil Diamond: “Cracklin’ Rosie” in 1970 and “Song Sung Blue” in 1972. Sandwiched in between was “Grazing in the Grass” by South African trumpeter Hugh Masekela.

This 1968 instrumental was composed in the studio by South African actor Philemon M. Hou who was a personal friend of Masekela and Miriam Makeba. Not only was “Grazing in the Grass” number one on the pop charts for two weeks, it also hit the top spot on the R&B chart and held down that position for four weeks.

In addition to its chart success, the single sold four million copies in 1968. Unfortunately that success wasn’t translated in his own country, as Masekela’s music was banned on South African radio. Being that “Grazing in the Grass” has been used in a number of motion pictures, it will serve double duty as our Media Monday selection. On this song, drummer Chuck Carter uses cowbell to the extreme – therefore, it isn’t necessary to shout “More cowbell!”

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Uni Records: Brother Love's Travelling Salvation Show

It’s our fourth week of the month and we take another trip down memory lane with selections from the now defunct Uni Records label. Formed in 1966 by MCA Records as Universal City Records, the label was popularly known simply as Uni Records. Outside the fine print on the labels and album covers, no one would have ever known of its full name.

Uni was distinct for its mustard yellow label with swirls of blue, magenta, and lime green. At the end of 1972, MCA consolidated all of its labels (Decca, Uni, Kapp, Coral, Congress, Vocalion, MCA Special Products, and others) into MCA Records. MCA’s first release was by a former Uni artist Elton John.

In 1988, MCA Records reintroduced Uni as a subsidiary to serve as an alternative music label. Much publicity was given to the label and a friend of mine was hired as their national promotions director. Uni was in the midst of building their regional team when I was in talks with the label about taking a promotional job. Unfortunately (or fortunately given the circumstances), MCA pulled the plug on the reconstituted Uni before I was ever hired. So I continued in radio for another six years prior to moving to higher education full-time.

You may not see some of your favorite Uni releases this week, as many have already been featured in the past and I do not repeat recordings. For our first Uni selection, I’ve drawn from their archives of hits to feature long-time Uni artist Neil Diamond with his 1969 hit “Brother’s Love Travelling Salvation Show.” The song peaked at #22.

Part of the reason that it failed to chart higher is that there was movement to ban the song in the American South. Some evangelical ministers felt that the song denigrated the tent revival type of experience, which is still prevalent south of the Mason-Dixon Line.

Unfortunately, they missed the point. Although Diamond is Jewish, this was far from his intentions, as the song actually elevates the style of gospel singing and revival preaching – and perhaps introduced it to an entire new audience. It was a tribute and not a mockery of this form of religious experience.

The song inspired two album titles: “Brother Love’s Travelling Salvation Show” (obviously) and “Hot August Night.” Taken from the first line of the song, “Hot August Night” was Diamond’s popular 1973 live album. The title uses the British spelling of “Travelling” as opposed to the American spelling of “Traveling.”  “Hallelujah – I say brothers.”

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Jefferson Airplane: When The Earth Moves Again

I have two albums in my collection that came in brown paper wrappers – one of those was designed as a knock off of an A&P bag – Jefferson Airplane’s “Bark” from 1971. “Bark” was the first release on Jefferson Airplane’s own label Grunt Records.

While a handful of other artists recorded for Grunt, the great majority of releases were from the Airplane and its spinoff groups and solo projects. It was also the band’s first album without Marty Balin who would later rejoin Jefferson Starship in 1975.

The first cut on “Bark” was a song that was neglected for single release, but received a modicum of album radio play was “When the Earth Moves Again.” Personally I prefer the mix on the Airplane’s live album “Thirty Seconds over Winterland,” which was released in 1973. Be that as it may, I am featuring both versions of the song.

I feel that the live version better becuase the vocals have more punch. Perhaps this is because David Freiberg, an alumnus of Quicksilver Messenger Service,” joined Grace Slick and Paul Kantner singing lead on this Kantner composition. The guitars are also hotter in the mix as well.

No singles were issued from “Thirty Seconds over Winterland.” Although the reviews of “Bark” were mixed, it peaked on the album chart at #11; “Thirty Seconds Over Winterland,” which I also have as an import, was one of the bands poorer charting albums with a peak at #52.

The personnel on both cuts were slightly different. While both releases featured long time JA members Slick (vocals), Kantner (guitar & vocals), Jorma Kaukonen (guitar), and Jack Casady (bass), some changes appeared by the recording of the live tracks at San Franciso’s Winterland Ballroom in August and September 1972.

In addition to adding Freiberg on vocals, Johnny Barbata (from The Turtles) replaced Joey Covington on drums. Papa John Creach, who had been performing with Airplane spinoff band Hot Tuna, was enlisted as a sideman on “Bark.” He played on three of the album’s cuts including “When the Earth Moves Again.” By 1972, Creach had become a full-fledged member of the band, albeit the oldest member at 55 – but looked much older at the time.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Manfred Mann: John Hardy

Manfred Mann’s “B” Side of “John Hardy” may be the only song about West Virginia by a British Invasion band of the 1960s. The song is based on a January 1893 murder in Welch in McDowell County in which railroad worker John Hardy killed Thomas Drews. Hardy was subsequently hanged a year later on January 19, 1894.

According to the Wheeling Daily Register of January 20, 1894,

John Hardy, for killing Thomas Drews, both colored, was hung at 2:09 p. m. today [January 19]. Three thousand people witnessed his death. His neck was broken and he died in 17 1/2 minutes. He exhibited great nerve, attributed his downfall to whiskey, and said he had made peace with God. His body was cut down at 2:39, placed in a coffin, and given to the proper parties for interment. He was baptised in the river this morning. Ten drunken and disorderly persons among the spectators were promptly arrested and jailed. Good order was preserved.

Hardy killed Drews near Eckman last spring in a disagreement over a game of craps. Both were enamored of the same woman, and the latter proving the more favored lover, incurred Hardy's envy, who seized the pretext of falling out in the game to work vengeance on Drews, who had shown himself equally expert in dice as in love, having won money from Hardy. Hardy drew his pistol, remarking he would kill him unless he refunded the money. Drews paid back part of the money, when Hardy shot, killing him. Hardy was found guilty at the October term.

The first known recording of the folk song was in 1924 by Eva Davis on the Columbia label - 30 years after the hanging. Manfred Mann’s version appeared 40 years later as the flip side to their 1964 hit “Sha La La,” which charted at #12. Lead singer Paul Jones played the harmonica on “John Hardy.”

Several lines and verses of the original folk song were omitted from Manfred Mann’s version – most notably that he “killed a man on the West Virginia line” and the events surrounding his hanging. Some of the other recordings of the song took liberties with the account; interestingly, Manfred Mann’s rendition was somewhat more accurate than many American recordings.

John Hardy should not be confused with another West Virginia railroad worker – John Henry who was also immortalized in song and had died in the 1870s racing the steam drill in the excavation of the Big Bend Tunnel near Talcott in Summers County.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Town Mountain: I'm on Fire

I don’t remember where I first heard Town Mountain’s version of Bruce Springsteen’s “I’m on Fire,” but I’m pretty sure it was on Pandora. I immediately loved it and found it on YouTube and added it to my favorite selections. They’re not your granddad’s bluegrass band, but they aren’t new grass either. One reviewer said that they were “bluegrass as it should be played.”

Featuring the traditional string instruments of guitar, banjo, mandolin, fiddle, and upright bass; Town Mountain hails from Asheville, NC – a town I had an opportunity to visit for the first time last summer. Additionally, Town Mountain was the 2013 International Bluegrass Music Association Band of the Year and their lead vocalist, Robert Greer, was named Vocalist of the Year.

Their rendition of this Springsteen classic is as authentic sounding as if it were a bluegrass ballad from the past. Check it out this track from their second CD: “Heroes and Heretics.”

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The Devolution of Bob Casale - A Devo Twofer

An unfortunate event occurred yesterday. Bob Casale, one the founding members of Devo, died of heart failure in Los Angeles. Casale, a guitarist with the band, was not as visible as Mark Mothersbaugh who fronted Devo; however, he was integral to their overall sound. The band consisted of the two Mothersbaugh brothers, Mark and Bob; the two Casale brothers, Gerald and Bob (AKA Bob2); and Alan Myers who passed away in 2013.

Devo took its name from a shortened form of devolution – as the band quipped that mankind wasn’t evolving, it was devolving. In memory of Casale, we dedicate today’s Twofer Tuesday selection.

While the band only had one legitimate hit, 1980’s “Whip It,” I plan to lead with their near miss “Working in the Coal Mine.” From the movie “Heavy Metal,” “Working in the Coal Mine” was a reworking of Lee Dorsey’s Top Ten hit from 1966.

I remember this record especially well as we played it at WCIR in Beckley, WV and the record, I believe, charted locally in 1981 at #2. It was a big hit in coal mining country that didn’t translate well everywhere and nationally it peaked only at #43.

For the promotion of the record, Jay Brooks, our Elektra/Asylum regional rep out of Pittsburgh, came down to do a photo shoot with Ron Hill and me. We went into the Beckley Exhibition Coal Mine and took photos of the three of us holding the album, the single, and pick axes. All three of us wore miners’ helmets as well.

We also had some photos taken with a retired coal miner who served as the tour guide. Our photo appeared on the cover of Elektra/Asylum’s promotion department’s in-house magazine. Unfortunately, I have that packed away somewhere – so I can’t share it here. Parts of this song always bothered me as the abrupt rhythm changes sounded like the record was skipping. I wonder how many albums were returned because of this.

Besides their Energy Domes, Devo is best remembered for their only hit proper: “Whip It.” Released in the fall of 1980, “Whip It” was the band’s only foray into the Top 40. Peaking at #14, the single appeared on “Freedom of Choice.” Although the band had released several singles, two EPs, and two albums prior to “Freedom of Choice,” “Whip It” was the band’s introduction to the mainstream public.

Bob Casale plays bass in the official video; however, the bass parts were played on a custom Moog synthesizer. The whip sounds were also created via synthesizer. Highly memorable, the guitar parts were directly inspired by Roy Orbison’s “Pretty Woman.” Listen hard and you’ll hear the similarities – although the phrasing is much different.

RIP Bob Casale – thanks for some very interesting music.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Episode 1400: The Beatles - Till There Was You

Today, we celebrate the 1,400th post on “Reading Between The Grooves,” but before we analyze what’s happened during the last 100 posts, we’ll also finish off our Second Week Special: “It was 50 Years ago Today.” This week in 1964, The Beatles’ first album on Capitol Records became the #1 album in the US.

“Meet The Beatles!” would stay at this slot for 11 weeks until it was unseated by “The Beatles’ Second Album.”  The titles of Capitol’s first two albums were misnomers, as they discounted Vee Jay’s release, “Introducing . . . The Beatles,” which predated “Meet The Beatles!” by ten days.

While “Meet The Beatles!” had a similar cover to the second UK release, the two albums only shared nine songs. While “With The Beatles” had six songs not penned by the band, “Meet The Beatles!” featured only one tune not written by John, Paul, or George – “Till There was You.”

Written by Meredith Wilson for “The Music Man” in 1958, Paul McCartney learned the song through Peggy Lee’s recording, and it became part of the band’s set list as early as 1962. Their version of “Till There was You” features an impressive acoustic guitar lead by George Harrison.

McCartney sang lead on the tune and had an interesting pronunciation of the word “saw,” which comes across as “sarw.” In addition, the song was the second tune played by The Beatles on their Ed Sullivan Show debut on February 9, 1964.

RBTG’s 1,400th Post Retrospect

Like I had reported with every other 100th post anniversary, I took a look backward on how we are doing visitor wise. I began this blog on September 26, 2009, but did not start monitoring the visits until October 16, 2009. Currently, we have 76 declared followers of the blog – up from 70 in September 2013. There are many others who have visited frequently without declaring themselves as followers. Since our last evaluation, Google+ has become a major source of new visitors.

The cumulative statistics for the blog are listed below:

Unique Visitors137,223
Times Visited153,177
Number of Pages Viewed221,404
People Visiting 200+ Times2,161
People Visiting 101-200 Times1,083
People Visiting 51-100 Times989
People Visiting 26-50 Times963
Number of Visitor Countries Represented182

The Top Ten Visitor Countries

Since our 1,300th post, three new countries were added to the list: two from the Caribbean (Sint Maarten and Curaçao) and one from Africa (Somalia).

1United States74,412
2United Kingdom12,774

As always, I want to take this time to thank all of you for your support of this site and the encouragement to keep going forward. Thanks again for Reading between the Grooves.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

It Was 50 Years Ago Today: Um, Um, Um, Um, Um, Um

One of my favorite soul records of the 1960s was Major Lance’s 1963-1964 hit “Um, Um, Um, Um, Um, Um.” This week 50 years ago, Lance’s biggest hit of his career peaked at #5. As with a number of other songs recorded by Lance, Curtis Mayfield penned “Um, Um, Um, Um, Um, Um.”

Released in December 1963, the single appeared on the Columbia affiliate label: OKeh Records with a bright purple label with a golden print. The single was produced by OKeh president Carl Davis who following his tenure with OKeh moved on to produce other soul artists on Brunswick. OKeh began as an independent label in 1916 and was purchased by Columbia in 1926. In 1970, the label was discontinued and would later be reactivated by Sony in 1994. Sony purchased the CBS Records division in 1988.


Walking through the park, it wasn't quite dark
There was a man sitting on a bench
Out of the crowd as his head lowly bowed
He just moaned and he made no sense
He'd just go
Um, um, um, um, um, um
Um, um, um, um, um, um
Um, um, um, um, um, um
Um, um, um, um, um, um

I just couldn't help myself
Yes, I was born with a curious mind
I asked this man just what did he mean
When he moaned if he'd be so kind
And he'd just go
Um, um, um, um, um, um
Um, um, um, um, um, um
Um, um, um, um, um, um
Um, um, um, um, um, um

Now that I've grown up
And the woman I love she has gone
Now that I'm a man, I think I understand
Sometimes everyone must sing this song
Listen to me sing
Um, um, um, um, um, um
Um, um, um, um, um, um
Um, um, um, um, um, um
Um, um, um, um, um, um

Can't you hear me, now
Um, um, um, um, um, um
Um, um, um, um, um, um
Um, um, um, um, um, um
Um, um, um, um, um, um

Everybody now
Um, um, um, um, um, um
Um, um, um, um, um, um
Um, um, um, um, um, um
Um, um, um, um, um, um

Can't you hear me, now
Um, um, um, um, um, um
Um, um, um, um, um, um
Um, um, um, um, um, um
Um, um, um, um, um, um
One more time, now

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

It Was 50 Years Ago Today: Hey Little Cobra

Backed by the famed Wrecking Crew studio musicians, vocalists Phil Stewart and Ernie Bringas were officially The Rip Chords; however, their recordings included two unofficial members, Bruce Johnston and Terry Melcher. While the surf band had five singles to chart within the Hot 100, only two made it to the Top 40: “Three Window Coupe,” charting at #28, and “Hey Little Cobra,” which peaked at #4.

In fact, “Hey Little Cobra” peaked on the charts exactly 50 years ago this week. The song champions the Shelby Cobra racing car which, at the time, was giving the Chevy Corvette a run for the money. The single was produced by Melcher and Johnston.

At the time, Melcher, the son of Doris Day, was the youngest producer at Columbia Records. His partner in crime, Bruce Johnston, would later become a member of another surf band, The Beach Boys.

Although The Rip Chords had four lead vocalists, Terry Melcher sang lead on “Hey Little Cobra” and its flip side “The Queen.” In addition, there is every indication that only Terry Melcher and Bruce Johnston appeared on this record as vocalists and the single was issued in the band’s name only even though no official member of The Rip Chords contributed to its success.

However, the corresponding LP, “Hey Little Cobra and Other Hot Rod Hits,” featured all four men on vocals. To compound the issue of the identity of the band, Phil Stewart and two other vocalists (Rich Rotkin and Arnie Marcus) represented the touring group of The Rip Chords. Despite who sang “Hey Little Cobra,” it was quite a feat for a band to make the Top Five during the height of Beatlemania.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

It Was 50 Years Ago Today: She Loves You

In 1964, recordings of The Beatles were simultaneously being released by six different record labels: Capitol, Vee Jay, Tollie, ATCO, MGM, and Swan. I don’t think this has ever happened before or since 1964. It was a rare occurrence and could have contained even another label: Decca.

Two issues were present. Capitol, EMI’s American label, passed on The Beatles in 1963 and their first album, “Please Please Me” was licensed to Chicago’s Vee Jay Records who initially released the album in early 1964 as “Introducing The Beatles.” Incidentally, Vee Jay used the same tracks for a half dozen different albums with various titles.

Although not releasing the album until 1964, Vee Jay had already issued “Please Please Me” (as The Beattles) and “From Me to You” as singles in 1963. Only “From Me to You” charted with a dismal showing at #116. By 1964, several singles were culled from “Introducing the Beatles” and issued and re-issued on Vee Jay and its subsidiary Tollie Records.

In addition, several of The Beatles’ tracks (with and without Tony Sheridan as lead vocalist) owned by Polydor were licensed to MGM and ATCO and these made their way on the charts during the height of Beatlemadia as well. Decca had originally issued “My Bonnie” by Tony Sheridan and The Beat Brothers (i.e., The Beatles) in 1962 with no success.

By September 1963, Capitol passed on another Beatles’ single – “She Loves You.” EMI licensed the record to Swan Records out of Philadelphia because Vee Jay was late in paying mechanical rights’ royalties. While “She Loves You” climbed to the top of the British charts in November 1963, Swan’s first issue of the single failed miserably.

That is until Beatlemania struck and Swan re-released “She Loves You” on January 25, 1964. By this week 50 years ago, “She Loves You” was solidly at the #3 position on the Hot 100. When “I Want to Hold Your Hand” slid back down the charts after being #1 for seven weeks, “She Loves You” replaced it as the number one American single for two weeks.

In order to capitalize on Capitol’s misfortune of passing on “She Loves You,” Swan released a promo version of the flip side, “I’ll Get You,” in April 1964; but, with radio being inundated with other Beatles’ product, the song failed to gain much airplay and “She Loves You”/“I’ll Get You” was not a double sided hit like “I Want to Hold Your Hand”/“I Saw Her Standing There.”

On May 21, 1964, Swan also released the German version of “She Loves You” titled “Sie Lieb Dicht.” Swan argued that since EMI had licensed “She Loves You” for the American release that the German version was theirs as well. EMI acquiesced. It too was backed by “I’ll Get You.” “Sie Lieb Dicht” stalled on the US charts at #97.

Although Capitol was forbidden to release “She Loves You” as a single for two years, it appeared on “The Beatles’ Second Album,” which debuted on April 11, 1964. “Yeah, Yeah, Yeah” and the rest is Beatles history.

Monday, February 10, 2014

It Was 50 Years Ago Today: You Don't Own Me

She was just 17 . . . when Lesley Gore recorded her smash hit, “You Don’t Own Me.” While this early tribute to feminine independence had the potential to be a number one record, those pesky "Mop Tops" from Liverpool prevented the song from ever moving past the number two spot. She may have tried harder, but with The Beatles dominating the number one spot for fourteen weeks, it was impossibility for Ms. Gore.

“You Don’t Own Me” was written by John Madera and Dave White. The wonderful arrangement was courtesy of German musician/composer/arranger/conductor Claus Ogerman. Quincy Jones, a Mercury Records’ staffer, produced the disc. The song is noted for its two key changes in its reprise. Gore’s version of “You Don’t Own Me” has appeared in a number of movies including “The Convent,” “The Woods,” and “Hairspray.”

Sunday, February 9, 2014

It Was 50 Years Ago Today: I Want To Hold Your Hand

It’s time for our second week of the month feature; and in honor of The Beatles’ first appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show on February 9, 1964, we’ll take a look at the Billboard Hot 100 chart for this week in music history. I already dealt with the topic of their appearance back in 2011, so I won’t be talking about my personal recollections of that important night.

This week we’ll look at the songs at the top of the charts and finish off the week with a track from the number one album of the week of February 9 to February 15, 1964. Starting with the number one record of the week, we’ll move back up the chart.

Recorded in October 1963, The Beatles’ “I Want to Hold Your Hand” was The Beatles’ first recording using state-of-the-art four track reel-to-reel recording equipment. It took 17 takes to finish the song and George Martin compressed John Lennon’s rhythm guitar to achieve an almost organ like sound.

While “This Boy” was the flip side for the UK release on Parlophone, Capitol selected “I Saw Her Standing There,” which allowed the record further chart as a double sided hit. The “B” side peaked at #14. The “A” Side, which was performed live on the Sullivan show, had already hit the #1 mark in the previous week and would remain at the top spot for a total of seven weeks.

Prior to being issued in America, a disc jockey at WWDC in metropolitan Washington saw Walter Cronkite’s December 10, 1963 piece on the CBS Evening News and had several copies of the British issue flown over from London aboard a BOAC flight to DC. Through the sharing of these copies with other jocks in major markets, the single began to break out in the US prior to its Capitol release on December 26.

In early January, after an aggressive marketing campaign by Capitol, the single was certified as a million-seller and attained gold status in the US. In today’s music climate, special marketing in conjunction with a major release is expected; however, Capitol’s promotion of The Beatles during the winter of '63-'64 was unprecedented and was like nothing anyone had ever seen before.

The efforts paid off.  On April 8, 1964, The Beatles dominated the Top 5 on Billboard’s Hot 100 with “Can’t Buy Me Love” at #1, “Twist and Shout” at #2, “She Loves You” at #3, “I Want to Hold Your Hand” at #4 and “Please Please Me” at #5. In addition, “Meet The Beatles” and “Introducing the Beatles” placed at the top two slots on the Top 200 Albums chart during the same week. No one has ever been able to match this combined feat.

By the way, the label and picture sleeve shown above comes from my own collection.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

John Mayall: Room To Move

John Mayall may be considered the grandfather to a number of top bands. This list includes Cream, Fleetwood Mac, Mark-Almond, and others who studied under the tutelage of the master: Mr. John Mayall and his Bluesbreakers. In 1969 when Mick Taylor left the Bluesbreakers to join The Rolling Stones as their lead guitarist, the band folded. Mayall decided that his music needed a turning point – to move away from the loud electric guitars and drums; and so, he formed his next band that provided a slightly subdued version of the blues.

Today’s bubbling under recording comes from that era – a new band, a new sound, and a new record label – Polydor. It truly was “The Turning Point” and the album by that moniker came to fruition with the recordings of a live show from the Fillmore East on July 12, 1969.

Released as an un-charting single, “Room to Move” features Mayall on harmonica, vocals, and mouth percussion; Johnny Almond on flute and mouth percussion; Jon Mark on acoustic guitar; and Steve Thompson on bass. What a great tune that showcases this tight band in a live context. Who knew in 1969 that the human beat box would ever be so extremely popular.

Friday, February 7, 2014

The Hollies: Indian Girl

For today’s Friday Flipside, we take you back to 1972 with a non-album “B” side by The Hollies: “Indian Girl.” Released only in North America as a single, it’s “A” side, “Long Dark Road,” was a mid-charter in the US (#26) and Canada (#24).

“Long Dark Road” was released as the follow-up single to “Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress” and both appeared on the “Distant Light” album in 1971. “Indian Girl,” however, was not released on an album until it appeared on the 2007 CD release of the 1972 album “Romany.” It was one of the CD’s 8 bonus tracks.

“Indian Girl” was penned by Terry Sylvester who also handled the lead vocals on the cut. Sylvester joined The Hollies in 1969 as a replacement for Graham Nash. Like Nash, he typically handled the high tenor harmonies. When Sylvester released his self-titled solo album in 1974, he remade “Indian Girl.” His solo version, complete with steel guitar, was not released as a single. Personally, I prefer The Hollies’ treatment of this classic “B” side.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Twofer Tuesday: The Michael Stanley Band

By suggestion from my friend Greg Rector, I bring a new Tuesday feature – “Twofer Tuesday.” Actually, I’ve been considering this for some time as the idea is similar to a feature we had at WOAY AM/FM in Oak Hill, WV. Nearly every AOR station in the 80s did “Twofer Tuesdays,” so many will be familiar with the concept. Greg even volunteered a few selections for this feature’s maiden voyage. Today, we feature two cuts from The Michael Stanley Band’s “Heartland” album from 1980.

The Michael Stanley Band was the darling of the Rust Belt. From Cleveland, OH, they constantly packed the local arenas whenever they played on their home field. While the band had three major record deals with Epic, Arista, and EMI-America, they failed to garner a large national base.

With disappointing album sales and being dropped from Arista, the band took it upon themselves to record the “Heartland” album and shop it to various labels. If that failed, they would release it themselves.

The tactic worked, as EMI-America picked up MSB and released four of their albums. Three of these would become their highest charting releases. While they failed have a Top 20 album, they had a good chart showing for a band who had a limited regional following.

“Heartland” featured two single releases “He Can’t Love You” and “Lover.” Released in 1980, “He Can’t Love You” was written by keyboardist Kevin Raleigh who also sings lead on the cut. “He Can’t Love You” became the band’s highest charting single when it peaked at #33 in 1981.

The follow-up single, “Lover,” didn’t fare as well and the band’s fourth highest charting single at #68. Michael Stanley, who wrote “Lover,” sings lead. Both songs feature the tenor saxophone work of Clarence Clemons of the Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Buddy Holly: Peggy Sue Got Married

Sneaking in my Media Monday Selection in the waning hours of February 3, I present to you a Buddy Holly song on this 55th anniversary of his death. Holly, Ritchie Valens, the Big Bopper (J.P. Richardson) died in a plane crash near Clear Lake, Iowa during the early morning hours of February 3, 1959. While I was just three years old at the time, I remember "the day that the music died." My brother came home from high school that afternoon saddened by the news that one of his rock ‘n roll icons had passed.

In honor of Holly, I've chosen a recording that later become one of his posthumous non-hit single releases. “Peggy Sue Got Married” was originally recorded in Buddy Holly’s New York apartment on December 8, 1958 – less than two months prior to his death. I'm featuring this acoustic version today, as it was the rendition used in the 1986 motion picture of the same name. The original reel-to-reel recording featured only Holly and his acoustic guitar.

In 1959, producer Jack Hansen took this sequel to Holly’s hit “Peggy Sue” and added session musicians and back up vocalists to complete the recording. While it charted at #13 in the UK, this September 1959 release was a flop in the US and failed to make it to the Hot 100. Another version recorded in 1964 featured The Fireballs for the instrumentation and was produced by Norman Petty using the original Holly acoustic track from New York.

Although, Buddy Holly died in 1959 – I'm reminded of the cover for “Buddy Holly and the Crickets’ 20 Golden Greats” LP from 1978 that echoed the sentiments that “Buddy Holly Lives.”  As long as we are playing his music, he lives on.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Sire: Lay Down Your Weary Tune

For our final look at Sire Records, we travel back to 1972 when McGuinness Flint released “Lay Down your Weary Tune.” Like Fleetwood Mac, McGuinness Flint was named for two members of the band – guitarist Tom McGuinness and drummer Hughie Flint.

Previously a five piece band, McGuinness Flint had been whittled down to four members that also included founding member Dennis Coulson and the band’s newest addition, Dixie Dean, on bass. When they issued the album “Lo and Behold: Words and Music by Bob Dylan,” the band was listed as Coulson, Dean, McGuinness, Flint.

While the songs on the album were all written by Dylan, none had been released by the author at the time. “Lay Down your Weary Tune” was previously recorded by The Byrds for their “Turn! Turn! Turn!” album; however, McGuinness Flint’s version failed to chart. Even at that, it is a good interpretation of a song written by one of the premier songwriters of our era.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Sire Records: Hey Mama

Before they started having a couple of hit records, the Climax Blues Band was just that – a blues band. In fact, so influenced by the Chicago blues, they called themselves the Climax Chicago Blues Band. They dropped the “Chicago” moniker to avoid confusion with Chicago Transit Authority with the band’s release of their fourth LP: “Tightly Knit.”

It is that album from 1971 that we pull the lead cut to help fulfill our look at Sire Records. “Hey Mama,” the lead track, showcases the talent of this band that doesn’t normally get the recognition they deserve. Guitarist Pete Haycock takes the lead vocals on this cut while his fantastic lead guitar work interplays with a variety of instrumentation handled by Colin Cooper. Cooper plays all of the horn parts and the fantastic amplified harmonica parts.

Not to be forgotten, the glue of the song is laid down by keyboardist Arthur Wood, bassist Derek Holt, and drummer George Newsome. The rhythm section of the Climax Blues Band provides some great kicks in “Hey Mama.” This 1971 release was made when musicians were musicians. The album was re-released in 1976 with the addition of the band’s take on the Willie Dixon classic, “Spoonful.”

“Tightly Knit,” with its unique cover, was originally released in Britain on Harvest Records, an EMI subsidiary. Capitol, who was the EMI arm in the US, did not pick up the option for the Climax Blues Band; therefore, the independent Sire Records was their label in North America.