Saturday, 29 June 2013

The Wackers - Hot Wacks (1972)

So, continuing on with the Bob Segarini story, after the Family Tree's 1968's popsike classic "Miss Butters" (reviewed here) came the less inspired and not so good Roxy LP in 1969. Thankfully the Roxy period was a short one and Segarini and bandmate/multi instrumentalist Randy Bishop joined forces with Michael Stull (Lead Guitar, Piano, Vocals), William "Kootch" Trochim (Bass, Slide Guitar, Vocals) and Spencer T. Earnshaw (Drums, Percussion) and moved on to another project originally called Ernie & The Incredible Chickens, quickly renamed The Wackers. The plan this time was to go against the grain of the current trend of pretentious rock that was popular at the time and take music back to it's more innocent times of three minute songs with three harmonies and choruses you could sing along to. The Raspberries, Big Star and The Flamin' Groovies were also thinking along the same lines around this time and were essentially laying down the foundations of what would come to be known as Powerpop.

The first Wackers album "Wackering Heights" was released on Elektra Records in 1971 and was produced by Gary Usher (Byrds/Beach Boys). There are some great tracks on this record including a rousing version of Elvis Presley's "Don't Be Cruel" which was most likely the inspiration behind Cheap Trick's version of the song. Some of the slower tunes have got a strong Crosby, Stills and Nash vibe, thanks to the vocal harmonies. Everything on here though is ultra melodic with plenty of Beatlesque touches in the song writing especially Segarini's Sun King inspired "Body Go Round". 

The Wackers L-R (Stull, Bishop, Segarini, Trochim, Earnshaw)
"Wackering Heights" didn't sell too well but Elektra had enough confidence in the band to let them record a follow up, once again with Gary Usher producing. 1972's "Hot Wacks" album saw the band move away from the acoustic dominated sound of the first album to a more powerful sound, more electric guitars and heavier compressed drums but still pure pop at the same time. The recording lasted just six days at Le Studio in Montreal, Quebec in Canada, a favourite spot for the Wackers and a place where Segarini would most of the decade recording.

"Hot Wacks" opens with my favourite Wackers song "I Hardly Know Her Name" which is a one minute and fifty second pop gem which revisits the early Beatles sound. Next up is "We Can Be", the longest track on the album at four and a half minutes but grooves hypnotically away with some booming McCartney style bass lines and "She's So Heavy" guitar. The Beatles influences are all over this record and the bands intentions for their version of John Lennon's "Oh My Love" was for it to sound as though it was done by the Beatles themselves rather than Lennon solo and with it's Jeff Lynne trademark crunching snare drum it reminds me a lot of "Free As A Bird" (which, I suppose is another Lennon song so no big surprise there!). So convincing was their attempt at "Oh My Love" that it turned up many times over the years on Beatles bootleg albums. "Wait And See" pre-dates that Big Star, Radio City sound, in particular "Mod Lang" which sounds quite similar.

If you hadn't picked up on the Abbey Road vibe on the album this far then you certainly will when you flip it over to side two which is a medley of six short songs, which blend perfectly into one another thanks to some smart editing by Usher. The late Beatles sound is present throughout including some spine tingling Leslie speaker effect guitar. "Find Your Own Way" bears some lovely Lennonesque lysergic laced lyrics "sometimes it feels that the world isn't real and I'm floating in gelatin skies" which you can hear for yourself on my Bite It Deep Mix Vol.02 here. Richie Unterberger's liner notes for the CD reissue of the albums mentions that the band ended up being kicked off a post Jim Morrison Doors tour for being happy and having too much fun!

The band were not happy with Usher's mix of "Hot Wacks" and was not asked to produce the follow up, 1973's "Shredder". This is my least favourite of the three Wackers albums but it does have some quality moments. "Eventually, Even You Even Me" has a T-Rex "Slider" feel to it and apparently the band's stage outfits had been getting quite glam, Randy Bishop looks very lady like on the inner gatefold sleeve much to Elektra's disliking. The best track on the album is the Raspberries-alike "It's My Life" which saves the album. "Shredder" is worth a listen and as long as you don't spend too much on a copy or get your hopes up too high you'll be happy. Nice sleeve too! The album, like the previous two did not chart but would provide the band with their only US hit single. "Day and Night" which made it to number 65 in the Billboard chart.

Another Wackers album, "Wack and Roll" was partly recorded but winded up being rejected by Elektra which ultimately led to the band's demise. Segarini's next beand would be The Dudes, whose one and only album "We're No Angels" on Columbia Records in 1975, I haven't heard so I'll have to save that story for another time.

For now though, here's The Wackers doing what they did best...

Thursday, 20 June 2013

I Get So Excited - Real McCoy (1968) Vs I Get So Excited - The Equals (1968)

"I Get So Excited" has been recorded by many artists including Geno Washington, Don Fardon, The Grass Roots, Brownsville Station and even Captain Sensible. My favourite interpretations of the song are the original version by the Equals and the one by The Real McCoy, which incidentally was the first recorded cover, came out in released two months after the original.

The Equals
The Equals version is pure Hard Pop. Less soulful and more beaty than those recordings made by other artists in the following years, their version, like most of the bands recorded output is bursting with a driving energy. Equally(!) good is the flip side "The Skies Above", check it out here. This single was the Equal's fifth and like the four before it, flopped like a fish. Their defining single "Baby Come Back" was released just two months later. There's loads of hidden gems among the Equals back catalogue that will interest readers of this blog and I'd recommend you dig a little deeper into the works of Eddy Grant and Co.

The Real McCoy
The Real McCoy's version brings out the Bubblegum-ness from the track and is more melodic thanks to the vocal harmonies throughout. Rhythmic acoustic guitar and hand claps pad out the song and some over the top phasing which is used almost all of the way through, giving it a psychedelic tint. The B-side. "Somebody's Taken Maria Away", is a Chris Andrews penned tune which sounds rather like The Hollies circa 1965. This was the bands first of seven singles on the rarely seen Target record label and made it to number 68 in their native Irish Chart. The single also got a UK release on PYE but it failed to chart. There is an LP on the Marble Arch record label that was released in 1970 that brings together both sides of their first five singles. I've never seen a copy but would be interested if anyone out there has one to sell.

...So if I had to choose my favourite out of the two I'd most likely go with the Real McCoy version, mainly for its killer phasing!

Check it out...

Thursday, 13 June 2013

Bite It Deep Volume 13

The Lovin' Spoonful - Only Pretty, What A Pity
The Newmens - What Ya Doin' Down There
Giles, Giles & Fripp - She Is Loaded
The Tremeloes - Willow Tree
Claggers - Umber Rag
Paradise Hammer – You Got Me In
Cerro Verde - I Lost A Game
Kevin Vicalvi - Another Day, Another Time
Cross Country - Just A Thought
Rick Price - I Can Get Found
Clifford T. Ward - Jig-Saw Girl
Ian Matthews - Franklin Avenue
Flying Machine - The Devil Has Posession Of Your Mind
Five Steps Beyond - Not So Young Today
Billy Nicholls - Umbrella Song The Goodies - Cricklewood

Friday, 7 June 2013

Peacock - Sun Was In Your Eyes (1971)

The man behind this one off single is Roger Peacock, a singer who had been in the music business since the early sixties fronting British beat bands such as The Cheynes, Mark Leeman Five and Dave Anthony's Moods as well as cutting a solo single for Columbia records in 1965, an r&b, Georgie Fame-alike song  called "Everybody's Talkin' 'Bout My Baby" b/w "Time Have Changed". Peacock relocated to Italy in 1969 joining The Primitives then The Godfather.

Roger Peacock singing in The Primitives
It was during the early 1970's that he hooked up with his old friend Lally Stott who wrote and produced both sides of this solo record. The A-side, "Just A Lonely Man" vocally sounds quite different to his earlier solo single and he appears to have picked up a bit of an Italian accent. It's a decent enough pop ballad but the B-side is the real killer. "Sun Was In Your Eyes" is a slow burning Abbey Road style ballad, bass pumped up to the max, double tracked acoustic guitar, multi layered vocals a'la "Sun King", the song picks up the pace a little by the last chorus when the tambourine and Leslie speaker effect electric guitar kick in. This song gave me goosebumps the first time I heard it on the wonderful "Mr Toytown Presents Volume 3" a couple of years ago and is one I've wanted to share on this blog but had to wait until I had my own copy, on the Spanish Accion label with a picture sleeve of Peacock sporting a rather mean looking horseshoe moustache in front of a Union Jack flag background. A British copy of the single exists on the Famous record label and was also released in October 1971.

Roger Peacock never released any more records after this (to my knowledge) and would settle in the Indian, hippy haven of Goa. He died in a car accident in 2007.

Listen to the killer, "Sun Was In Your Eyes"....