Friday, 22 June 2012

Happy Birthday Todd Rundgren!

To honour Todd Rundgren on his birthday, I've picked my top 3 Todd related tracks.
Here they are...

Nazz - Open My Eyes (1968)

This was the debut single to be released by Rundgren's first band, Nazz. A full on, sonic blast of phasing and fuzz.  Like a lot of American bands of this time, an Anglophile influence is present, with the intro paying homage to The Who's "I Can't Explain".  The song was given a new lease of life when it was included on Lenny Kaye's Nuggets compilation and has remained a dancefloor classic at any decent sixties/psychedelic club night.  The Nazz rarely put a foot wrong in the time they were together and their three albums are essential to anyone interested in psychedelic pop.

The video, like all good sixties promos, sees the band freaking out in the outdoors.

Todd Rundgren - Couldn't I Just Tell You (1972)

After breaking up the Nazz, the ever ambitious Rundgren went solo and mostly wrote, played and produced his albums by his self.  "Couldn't I Just Tell You", taken from his third solo album, a double LP called Something/Anything, is considered by many to be one of the biggest influences on Power Pop genre.  For the rest of the seventies he would experiment with sounds both as a solo artist and concurrently with his band Utopia to mixed results.  It gets a little too proggy for my liking, but in a good way I suppose.  It's always melodic!

This would possibly make it into my all time, Top 10 fave records.

Utopia - I Just Want To Touch You (1980)

The opening track to a Utopia album "Deface The Music" where the concept is to sound as much like the Beatles as possible.  Like the Rutles, the album pays homage to all stages of the Fab's songbook.  This song was going to be used in the soundtrack of a movie called "Roadie",starring Meatloaf but it was rejected in fear of legal action as it sound too much like the Beatles. 

I'll review the "Deface The Music" album in full on this blog sometime soon. But for now, "Happy Birthday Todd!" and enjoy...

Saturday, 16 June 2012

Nicky Hopkins - Waiting For The Band (1973)

Thought of by many as rocks greatest session musician, Nicky Hopkins played piano on countless hit records including The Rolling StonesThe BeatlesThe Kinks, Donovan, Jeff Beck and The Who to name a few and was constantly in demand and at the top of his game during the sixties and seventies.

In 1973, seven years after his first easy listening/ jazz album, CBS offered Hopkins the chance to record another album.  Several of his musician friends who he had sessioned for over the years returned the favour by guesting on the album "The Tin Man Was A Dreamer".  This time round he sings on all of the songs and although he might not have the best voice in the world, it has a certain likeability about it, especially on the second song, my fave on the album, "Waiting For The Band". This song has always reminded me of George Harrison's "Give Me Love (Give Me Peace On Earth)", not surprisingly really considering that they were both recorded at the same time, in the same studio and that George played slide guitar on "Waiting for the Band" and Hopkins played piano on "Give Me Love".

I've always imagined the lyrics being about his sessions with the Rolling Stones, where the band would book the studio for the day with every intention of turning up at the crack of dawn to get some work done, only to get distracted, eventually turning up at two o'clock in the morning greeted by a very pissed off Hopkins (and most probably Bill Wyman!).

Waiting For The Band - Lyrics

The night was black,
It was the blackest that I've ever seen
I stopped a stranger and asked which way to go
He slapped me on the back
And then he laughed and then he looked at me
Then he said, you can't get there from here
No, no, no, no

Without a road
How can I make it back to you?
Without a light above I cannot find the way
Turn on your love light,
Let it shine like a peek and wait, you see me through
Cause baby how can I be happy without you?

Faster my heart is beating, 
Faster and I'm all alone
Strangers are all around me, 
No one will tell me where to find a phone
It's like sitting in the studio waiting for the band to come
Sitting in the studio waiting for the band to come

And if the band don't come by early in the morning
I'II have to find a way to have myself survive
Cause if the band don't show by early in the morning
Then I'II be over darling, waiting for the band to come

Slower, I'm getting slower 
I've heard these songs so much before
Lower, I'm sinking lower 
Pretty soon you'll find me on the floor
Under the piano waiting for the band to come

Sitting, waiting for the band to come

Nicky Hopkins would continue his career as a session musician right up to his death in 1994 aged only 50, caused by his Crohn's disease, which he suffered from throughout his life.  To see footage of Hopkins in his prime check out the Gimme Some Truth movie where he plays on the sessions for John Lennon's Imagine album.

Friday, 15 June 2012

Grumbleweeds - In A Teknikolor Dreem (1972)

I'm just old enough to remember the Grumbleweeds television show from the mid 80's which is why it came as a surprise that they had a collectable "psychedelic" record on Philips from 1972.  That was the rumour that was going round a few years ago and I was dubious to spend serious dosh on an LP that I was convinced I could find, no problem, from a charity shop or car boot. The album title track, a tough acid rocker, surfaced on the first volume of the Electric Asylum compilation series which was probably the spark that triggered an increased collectors interest.  There might be some substance to this rumour after all! Three more songs turned up in early 2010 on the penultimate volume of Paul Martin's fab Pop Cycles compilations.  I had heard enough and eventually bit the bullet and tracked one down on ebay for £15. Very reasonable considering that it was selling for a hundred plus a few years previously.

On the whole the album is pretty good with plenty of Beatlesque and Bee Gees type pop and only a few duff tracks (their take on "My Sweet Lord" ain't great).  Not worth spending three figure amounts on but definitely worth picking up cheap.  Nice artwork too.  I'll producer Gil King finish off this blog entry with some actual facts taken from the LP liner notes.  This should make a nice change from my bad analogies.  Take it away Gil...

This album will probably come as a pleasant surprise to the many fans of the Grumbleweeds. Anyone who has seen them in cabaret will probably agree that they have one of the zaniest comedy acts in the business.  Until recently the only time they sang in their act was when they did their wildly funny send-ups of Elvis, Mick Jagger or Roy Orbison, but now they are beginning to sing their own original material to acquaint their public with this added dimension to their considerable talents as entertainers.  Nine of the songs on the album are written by members of the group and they have a particularly Northern flavour, which is accounted for by the fact that the boys are from Leeds.

Maurice Lee is the leader of the group, who in his own words is so fabulous he finds it hard to be humble!
Graham Walker is fat, bald (almost) and very funny, but has to bear the stigma of being Charlie Drake's double.
Robin Colvill usually sits in the middle, which is probably why he complains of having a permanent headache.
Albert (Abbo) Sutcliffe is Elvis-mad and ordinary mad as well.  He writes some very nice lyrics and has the good fortune to be the brother of:
Carl Sutcliffe - Genius extrordinaire, who writes most of the songs and sings lead vocals most of the time, but has know to be wrong (once!)

The sessions were not without incident, and during Teknikolor Dreem, Maurice, who provides a long loud scream in the number, after doing his bit keeled over and lay on the studio floor.  Naturally, we all ignored him (the gags had been thick and fast by this time), but after two or three minutes he was still there.  In fact, he'd screamed so hard and long that he passed out cold!  We'd particularly like to thatnk the two policemen who arrived from West End Central late one night to investigate a report about a lunatic who had been singing out on the roof, sitting on a chair wearing headphones for a particular sound we were after.  It took us a while to get going again after that!

The Grumbleweeds, now a duo of Colvill and Walker, continue to play the cabaret scene to this day.  For info and bookings check out their official website.

Sunday, 3 June 2012

Bite It Deep Volume 2 (Mixcloud)

Volume 2

Klaatu - We're Off You Know
Sundowners - Blue Green Eyes
Los Brincos - Jenny, Miss Genius
Chaos - You Could Be My Girl
Hudson Brothers - If You Really Need Me
Tony Rivers & The Castaways - I Can Guarantee You Love
Colours - I Think Of Her (She's On My Mind)
Asylum Choir - Icicle Star Tree
Rockin' Horse - Oh Carol, I'M So Sad
Bee Gees - Top Hat
Swinging Blue Jeans - Big City
Stories - Love In Motion
Chris Rainbow - All Night
Wolfe - Funny Funny
The Wackers - Find Your Own Way
Penny Wise - Leave Me Alone

Saturday, 2 June 2012

Stackridge (1971-1976)

Stackridge released five albums between the years 1971 and 1976.  The general sound of the band is quirky pop with humorous and occasionally whimsical lyrics with absolutely no machismo attached.  All of the albums are great and come highly recommended.  If I had to give any criticism and I'm struggling, it would be that some of the songs can be too long and bordering on prog, sometimes sounding a little like Genesis, although with much better vocals (I'm not a fan of Peter Gabriel!).

So, like the NRBQ post a while back, I have selected the top 13 Stackridge songs so you can make your essential compilation. Here they are in chronological order...

From Stackridge (MCA - 1971)

Marigold Conjunction
A strong, late Beatles influence on this track, complete with Harrison-esque double tracked guitar solo.  Some nice, not too over the top orchestration and great vocal harmonies throughout. This wouldn't sound out of place on the Story album by Honeybus. I wonder if they played this when they opened the very first Glastonbury festival in 1970?

Marzo Plod
The Marzo Plod that Stackridge are singing about must have been a relative of Maxwell Edison.  One listen to this and you'll understand what I'm talking about.  John Lennon wouldn't have liked this song!

From Friendliness (MCA - 1972)

Friendliness (part 1)
For the title track of their second album the band give Sun King a run for its money. The song is reprised as Friendliness (part 2) on the flip side of the album with more instrumentation but I prefer this version.

Amazingly Agness
A real bouncy, almost reggae number containing the lyrics "Handcuffed my ankles to number ten Downing Street claiming I was Winston Churchill". Very likeable.

Father Frankenstein Is Behind Your Pillow
With it's title looking like something by the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band the song comes over like a dreamier "Your Mother Should Know". Lots of subtle instrumentation, ethereal guitar, a splash of Moog and some backwards sounds for the fade out make this a late popsike gem.

From Man in the Bowler Hat (MCA - 1974)

Fundamentally Yours
A real Wings-like song from the album produced by none other than George Martin that makes me think the band were quite happy with the Beatles comparisons and decided to go the whole hog.  The album was released in the US under the title "Pinafore Days".

Dangerous Bacon
This is as heavy as the band would ever get, though that's not saying much.  A light electric piano stomper with Jeff Lynne-esque drums and some cool compressed sax. A bit like Rockin' Horses "Julian the Hooligan" without the snarl so err, yeah, very Beatley!

From  Extravaganza (Rocket - 1975)

Happy In The Lord
I didn't want to compare this to the Rutles' "Double Back Alley" but I just did. It's all I think of when I hear it but I mean that as a compliment, and this did come first so that makes it ok. The band were the first to be signed to Elton John's Rocket label on which this was released.

Grease Paint Smiles
The Rutles "Living in Hope" anyone? The vocal style seems to have changed for this album and I can't work out if it is a different singer as it sounds more like Jimmy Campbell than the lush vocal style of the first three albums.

Benjamin's Giant Onion
This is prime piano pop sang in a knee slapping cockney style about a man who's obsession with his onions finally sends him insane.  Bordering on Chas & Dave, but there's something about this I like.

From  Mr. Mick (Rocket - 1976) 

Hold Me Tight
A reggae-lite take on the Fab's classic might not be everyone's cup of tea but I love it.  This cover version was insisted by Rocket, who from what I have read recently, treated their acts pretty shitty.

Save A Red Face
Originally entitled "The Cotton Reel Song", they don't come more bouncier than this.  If you want a crap analogy (and lets face it, this post is full of them) I'd say Ronnie Lane doing "Don't Pass Me By".

Hey Good Looking
My favourite track on the album.  Sounding like a long lost classic by 10cc, this was originally going to be the album opener until Rocket stuck their nose in.  Check out "The Original Mr. Mick" CD for a longer version of this song plus some other tracks which make the concept of the album (and the dodgy sleeve) a little more understandable.

Stackridge broke up after the Mr Mick album partly due to the lack of success of that and the previous albums.  Members James Warren and Andy Davis would return a few years later as New Wave act, The Korgis who turned out some great pop songs, most notably their biggest hit, "Everybody's Gotta Learn Sometime", which made it to number 5 in the UK charts and number 18 in the US.  A great tune, murdered many times by more than it's fair share of techno artists.  Stackridge reformed in 2007 and have released new material and continue to perform live.  I just missed out on seeing them play an instore performance at Flashback Records in London on Record Store Day 2012. I was only round the corner when I found out about it, literally minutes after the set had finished.  Still, I intend to check them out if ever they play nearby and so should you.

Check out the bands official site for more info and great stories. I especially like the one about the John Lennon Imagine session.