"Here's MC5 filmed live on the campus of Wayne State University in Michigan and aired on hometown TV show "Detroit Tubeworks" in 1970 doing their biggest hit "Kick Out The Jams." We found the master tapes of over 11 hours from this legendary show which had been stored in a basement in Michigan. Other great guests we found on this underground show from 1968-1973 include MC5, Ted Nugent, Phil Ochs, Commander Cody, Captain Beefheart, Earth, Wind & Fire, Humble Pie, Fleetwood Mac featuring Peter Green and Joe Cocker. Also part of this archive is a 45-minute unseen concert of the Rolling Stones filmed at Olympia Stadium in Detroit on their 1969 tour."
Welcome back cats and kitties; this week's post is the first in yet another series- namely, some lesser known garage-y tracks from my 45 stash.
First up we have Jim Valley, known forever as Harpo, as he was named during his tenure as on of Paul Revere's Raiders (thanks to a striking resemblence to Harpo Marx). In late '65, original Raider lead guitarist Drake Levin decided to join the National Guard, as he was up to be drafted into the army. In early '66, The Raiders snatched up Jim Valley from the Portland-based Don & The Goodtimes to fill the vacant slot. Harpo became very popular with the fans, although he left the group in the spring of '67; harpo was expecting some of his own songs to be recorded in the group, and these promises were never fulfilled. This 45 was his first outside of the group, and is a strong guitar driven beat number, co-written by Don Galluci (the Don of Don & The Goodtimes, a former Kingsman, and future producer of The Stooges FUN HOUSE LP). Jim has released several solo records, but has concentrated on the heroic mission of teaching music to children since the early 1980's.
The Fountain of Youth are quite mysterious; apparently from Texas, they ended up on Colgems Records (a division of RCA that was set up specifically for The Monkees). Perhaps there's a connection with Michael Nesmith? I don't know for sure... "Livin' Too Fast" is a great beat number that is too sophisticated to be called 'garage' as it features strings, but its heart definitely has an oil-soaked floor (to my ears)
I'm pretty sure that these December's Children are the same group that released the freakbeat classic 'Backwards And Forwards", but very little is known about THAT group, either. Pretty slick production overall, but that fuzz guitar and non-PC lyrics about a 16 year old girl prove, once again, has its heart right smack in the area where the lawn mower is stored.
The Myddle Class are perhaps best known as being the band that The Velvet Underground opened for at Summit High School in December 1965, causing a real furor for kids and teachers when they launched into "Heroin". The group were from the Passaic Valley of suburban New Jersey and, through the power of their live shows and how they affected his babysitter, caught the ear of influential writer Al Aronowitz. "Don't Let Me Sleep Too Long" was lifted from a traditional spiritual called "Wake Me, Shake Me", and in fact the Myddle Class lifted it from (NYC band) The Blues Project, put THEIR names as the writers, and released it BEFORE The Blues Project. The copy seen here is a reissue that came out a few years later, and credits The Blues project for the arrangement. Ouch! The song was a hit in Albany, NY and San Bernardino, CA in 1966 but failed to break nationally (probably due to the fact that its over 3 minutes long).
The Five Emprees hailed from the southern tip of Michigan, and had a HUGE hit in the Chicago area with "Little Miss Sad", a cover from a VERY obscure single by The Addrisi Brothers (acrobats turned musicians who scored a huge hit when The Association covered their "Never My Love" in 1967). Released in 1965, this record straddles the line between the softer sounds of bands that were swept away by the initial boom of British Beat, and the harder sounds that were just around the corner, thanks to the mass adoption of the fuzz pedal post-"Satisfaction". Even though the harmonies are slick and the song is gentle, the propulsive percussion pushes this record a step ahead of the lighter weight stuff.
Welcome to part five of an ongoing series of freaky, funky, cool, and
occasionally downright weird cover songs! A great cover can not only put
a smile on our faces by delivering a familiar song in a new light, but
also show another side of the performer's personality. Here are some of the more odd (but excellent) covers of Beatles tracks that have made their way to my collection.
Chicago's Vontastics were led by singer/ songwriter Bobby Newsome. The
group released eight (excellent) singles, which included this killer
version of "Day Tripper". With its heavy riff, heavy backbeat and ultra
mod lyrics, "Day tripper" was one of the Beatles finest explorations
into the contemporary soul sound, and it was a natural fit in both the
original recording and sweaty, intense workouts by Otis Redding and JJ
Barnes. I really dig how the Vontastics smooth out the edges and take it
into something else entirely- namely, CHICAGO style soul. The group harmonies are lovely, and veteran arranger Burgess Gardner turns the groove into a lilting, swaying piece of delight.
Hailing from Baton Rouge, LA, John Fred had a MASSIVE hit with the amaziing, Beatle-esque "Judy In Disguise" in 1967, but this veteran performer had a career in music stretching back to his teen years in the late '50's. One could easily be mistaken into thinking John was a black singer, as his heavy, deep south accent OOZES soul, and it's heard to great effect on this FUNKY cover of the song that opens The Beatles self titled 1968 LP, known forever as The White Album .The Playboy Band itself shows off how tight the group was, no doubt brought on by a decade of performing all over the south at Fraternities, sock hops, opening slots, and basically anywhere they could make a living as journeyman musicians.
The music found on Rubber Soul found the Beatles reaching new heights of creativity, songwriting prowess and unique instrumentation. Between the fuzz bass assault of 'Think For Yourself" and the exotic sitar found on 'Norwegian Wood" I can only imagine what it would have been like to hear the record for the first time in 1965. Hidden as the b-side of Jan & Dean's silly-but-fun "Popsicle" 45 (itself basically a commercial for the Popsicle brand) is this freaky take on "Norwegian Wood" that replaces the sitar with fuzz guitar, some very stoned-sounding vocals from Jan & Dean, haunting harmonies, and an overall VERY trippy LA '66 vibe. I would be willing to bet that Brian Wilson is among the harmony singers, but it's never been confirmed. At the very least, I bet that Brian dug this take; a favorite track from the album that influenced his own Pet Sounds.
The sitars (of the electric variety) are back in full force for Barbara Love's gorgeous take on "Across The Universe". This seems to be the only release from Barbara Love, and I'm afraid that I know nothing more of her biographical info. The track is very "produced" but it still somehow captures the majesty of one of John Lennon's greatest philosophical tracks.
I'll leave you with this one; Sergio Mendes is, along with Astrud & Joao Gilberto, most responsible for spreading the gorgeous sound of the samba to the world at large. While the Beatles take on the Sgt Pepper LP is, arguably, THE understated masterpiece of that album, the Mendes version takes the song somewhere else entirely. The message of love and togetherness found in the words of the song lend itself perfectly to an arrangement that takes the Beatles words and message into the international feel of the samba, making the message of unity even stronger. The vocals and instrumentation are just gorgeous, and while these Herb Alpert productions sometimes get criticism for being too far on the pop spectrum, there are some truly transcendent moments found in the music that erase any possible negativity in anyone but the strongest of music cynics.
Harry Nilsson. The name alone seems to elicit an automatic sigh from those of us who love the music and the spirit of this man who died far too young. Stories of legendary partying (I especially love Micky Dolenz story of starting out in LA and waking up a few days later at a massage parlor in Phoenix) sometimes cast a shadow over the brilliance of his music; his vocal on "Without You" is one of those performances that is at the top echelon of immortal pieces of THE BEST of what talent has to offer.
Working as a bank computer programmer by night, young Harry spent his days in the mid '60's writing songs, which eventually got him a contract with Capitol records offshoot Tower. Two 45's were released, neither of which made much in the way of commercial inroads. "Good Times" had some serious hit potential, and perhaps its short length ruined whatever chances it had to be a hit. The song was also demo'd specifically for The Monkees, who instead chose to cover "Cuddly Toy"- the royalties from which allowed Harry to quit his bank job, and helped in his siging to RCA Records (where he spent the rest of his recording career).
While some great singles were drawn from Harry's LP's during the '70's, he was truly one of the great album artists of the first half of the decade. By 1980, a failed score (Popeye) and several albums that didn't live up to the earlier quality turned Harry basically into a retired artist. Tragically, due to the death of his friend John in December of that year, Harry found a new cause to devote his energy to; The National Coalition To Ban Handguns. One of the quirks of Harry's career was that he never performed live, yet against the odds became an enormously succesful recording artist. Harry's devotion to the gun control cause saw him make numerous appearances to speak on behalf of the crusade, and for this fan it makes him all the more heroic.
Harry also began making regular appearances at Beatlefest conventions, and he was known to blow minds of the crowds when he would get up and sing a song or two. For the 1982 fest, Harry spontaneously cut his second-to-last original release (discounting a few soundtrack and compilation cameos), With A Bullet.
Taking a very serious situation (Harry stages a faux-robbery during the song while sharing the shocking statistics of handgun violence) and placing it over a jaunty track was a brilliant way for Harry to spread the message. Too bad more people didn't get to hear this limited edition record which was sold only at Beatlefest! Of course its message today, 31 years later, is just as strong. The flip side, "Judy" was written when tall, glasses wearing Judy stepped forward to pledge $500 to the N.C.B.H cause after Harry said he would write a song for whoever made the pledge. The track is pure Harry, with its whimsical nature and trademark stacked vocals.