Repost by Request
Monday, July 30, 2012
A person by the name Kal Kahn murdered the English language, thought the British, when he sang Oh to be in England and Ladies of Calcutta. That 45 rpm brings back loads of memories, especially of those unforgettable music sessions that preceded Sunday brunches, followed by Musical Bandbox on All India Radio. Every week there would be one request for either of these Kal Kahn numbers. Whether he gave birth to the phrase "ladies of Calcutta" remains a mystery but he surely made it famous.
On the seaside bordering Adamaly place, along Galle Road, is a gas station that dispenses, petrol, diesel, cooking gas, vehicle servicing and washing, very popular with local residents.
It was here where the famous Sri Lankan crooner Bill Forbes once worked as an attendant. The pump still stands and serves its citizens valiantly until today.
Bill Forbes was born on 17th December 1938 in Sri Lanka. He came to Britain in 1955 at the age of 17 doing menial clerical work by day and renting a flat in Victoria, Central London. During 1958 Bill lived out his dreams of being a famous singer by appearing regularly at the “Bread Basket” coffee bar in Tottenham Court Road.
It was while he was performing one night in September 1958 that two talent scouts representing Jack Good approached him and asked if he wanted to audition for the “Oh Boy!” show. The series had just blasted onto the nation's television screens a few weeks earlier and Bill was already a big fan of the show.
The show was a groundbreaking British pop music event from 1958-1959, in London with Cliff Richard, Marty Wilde, Bill Fury and others. He released 12 hits for EMI Columbia among them 'Too Young/It's Not the End of the World,' Sri Lankans still sing his baila hit: 'Aacha England,' recorded under the name of Kal Khan. 'Oh to be in England!' is still a favorite of many vintage Sri Lankans. Bill Forbes also appeared on Donovan Andree's musical shows in Colombo in the early 1960s and he was interviewed over Radio Ceylon by the late Vernon Corea.
“I was one of 30 artists who were invited to perform before Jack Good,” recalls Bill. “I turned up for the audition which was held at the actual venue for the live show itself - the Empire Theatre in Hackney- and I was absolutely petrified.”
On entering the theatre he saw for the first time many of the series regular stars, such as the Lord Rockingham XI, the Dallas Boys, Don Lang and the Vernons Girls.
From the 30 artists who auditioned that autumn morning Jack Good personally picked just two to appear in his “Oh Boy!” series - Emile Ford (who appeared just once on the 29th November 1958 edition) and Bill himself.
“I was over the moon,” Bill said, “but the audition didn't exactly get off to a great start!” Bill chose to sing Marty Wilde's current hit “Endless Sleep” as his audition piece. But at the end of the song Jack Good told him his performance was “OK” but he sounded a bit too much like Marty.
“We don't want two Marty's in the show do we?” said Jack, and he got Bill to sing another song. Bill's second audition piece was the Johnny Ray classic “Just Walking In The Rain” which was enough to convince Jack to put him in the series.
“In those days Jack told YOU what songs you will sing, and nobody answered back. None of the artistes dared argue and being young and a novice I did as I was told.”
Bill continues “Jack gave me an American record of the upbeat spiritual song `God's Little Acre' (from the film of the same name) which he wanted me to learn and perform on the show. To be honest I wasn't too pleased with the choice because I was a BIG rock `n' roll fan and to me it just wasn't right for the time...and it definitely wasn't rock `n' roll! Oh well I thought, I'll just have to put up with it and sing it.”
Bill attended the painstaking rehearsals both at the Empire Theatre and the Four Provinces of Ireland Club in Islington during the latter part of October in preparation for his “Oh Boy!” television debut, which was due to be on Saturday 1st November 1958. (Show Number 8 )
However a few days prior to the live broadcast Jack called Bill with some crushing news. Tommy Steele had agreed to come on the show at short notice and so Bill's spot was cancelled.
“I was devastated by the news. I didn't hear anything from Jack for several weeks after that. I was in limbo at that time. I began to think he didn't want me at all and the call was just a polite way of letting me down.”
Then at the beginning of December Bill was finally given his big chance- and a date for his debut show… Saturday 13th December 1958 (Show Number 14)
Bill sang the spiritual number backed by the Lord Rockingham XI with the Dallas Boys and the Vernons Girls providing the vocal backing and choreography.
Shortly after the show Bill signed a recording contract with Columbia Records and between 1959 and 1962 released eight singles, the biggest of which “Too Young” reached the number 29 position in UK Charts during December 1959.
His biggest success however was in his homeland of Sri Lanka, where his 3rd Columbia release “Too Young” backed with “Its Not The End of the World” became a double-sided number one hit at the beginning of 1960.
Bill was regarded as something of a hero in Sri Lanka, because although they had never seen the “Oh Boy” show over there, its reputation had spread worldwide and it was big news that one of its homegrown talents was starring in it.
Today, Bill is still regarded as the first Sri Lankan solo artist ever to secure a recording contract and a hit recording outside his native country.
When he returned there for a 10-day whistle stop tour in early 1960 - topping the charts with his version of the evergreen ballad “Too Young”- he was mobbed in the streets and even invited to lunch with the Prime Minister at his official residence.
“The biggest kick for me was that “Too Young” knocked Cliff Richard's “Living Doll” off the top of the Sri Lanka charts. I really felt I'd made it! It all happened so fast it's just a blur when I think about it now. All the detail gets lost when so many good things happen at once,” Bill said.
On 17th January 1959 Bill Forbes made his 2nd of 11 appearances on the series. He sang another song chosen for him by Jack called “Woman From Liberia” which would prove a big hit with the viewers. “She gave me water but it was not from the well” are the songs most memorable if not politically correct lyrics, which warns against accepting suspect liquid refreshment from dodgy African women!
Despite its popularity here in Britain the song was never released as a single.
Bill sang the song again the following week 24th January (as well as “God's Little Acre”) and for the very final show on 30th May - at Jack's request. Fortunately this final show has survived so at least one Bill Forbes performance has been preserved on film for posterity.
Bill's unscheduled 4th appearance on the 7th February 1959 show came out of the blue and proved to be a highlight in his career.
Bill recalls; “On the Friday - the day before the live broadcast- Jack called me suddenly to say that Cliff was sick with laryngitis and was unable to appear. And he wanted me to stand in as Cliff's replacement.”
Cliff was due to sing 3 solo songs as well as a duet with Marty, and I had to learn all five numbers with just 24 hours notice.
“I sang “Hot Dog”, and “Love Me Tender”. Fortunately I was an Elvis fan so most of the lyrics were no real obstacle. “For the finale Marty Wilde and I closed with a duet singing “Rip It Up”, “Keep On Knockin' (But You Cant Come In)” and “Bird Dog”.
“That was my biggest moment! Normally I would only get to sing just one song but because Cliff was such a big star by this time he would always get about four or five numbers to sing. The show went very well and was my chance to shine as the big star for the week.”
Bill's 5th appearance on “Oh Boy!” was on 28th February singing “Bim-Bom-Bey”- a country hit in 1959 for Jimmy Rodgers in the USA.
Bill Forbes' Eight single releases in the United Kingdom
Columbia DB4232 1959 My Cherie/ God's Little Acre
Columbia DB4269 1959 Once More/ Believe In Me
Columbia DB4386 1959 Too Young/ It's Not The End Of The World
Columbia DB4566 1961 You're Sixteen/ Backward Child
Columbia DB4619 1961 That's It, I Quit, I'm Moving On/ Big City Boy
Columbia DB4747 1961 Goodbye Cruel World/ Next Time
Columbia DB4855 1962 Laughter Or Tears/ Like A Good Girl Should
Columbia DB945 1962 Poker Face/ Marianne
Sources of information :
Saturday, July 28, 2012
Jimmy Powell was one of the true veterans of the British blues scene, having cut his first single ("Sugar Babe" Pts. 1 and 2) for Decca in 1962, when Alexis Korner and Cyril Davies had barely established themselves. Powell formed the Dimensions in 1963 as his backing band, and within its ranks at the start was a young Rod Stewart on vocals and blues harp. The band played the Crawdaddy Club, one of the Meccas of the early blues boom, and were signed to Pye Records, but their singles failed to register with the public despite a high-energy sound strongly reminiscent of the early Stones, solid attack on their instruments (check out "I'm Looking For A Woman"), and a good feel for the blues.
the Dimensions split up in 1965 and Powell continued as a solo backed by various bands that he invariably called the Dimensions at his live gigs. He left Pye to record for the Strike label, and was back on Decca later in the 1960's. As late as 1969, he was still recording singles and his early work on Decca was getting reissued.
Jimmy Powell grew up in the West Heath area of Birmingham. After leaving school, he apprenticed as a lathe operator in Kings Norton while at night he fronted a local band called The Detours. His powerful vocal style soon began to attract attention and in 1961 he turned "pro" after joining an up-and-coming local group called The Rockin' Berries.
The Dimensions #5, London, summer 1963, left to right: Mike Webb, Gary Leport, Louis Cennamo, Rod Stewart, Brian Kattenhorn
In November of 1961, the Rockin' Berries went over to Germany with the group by this time including local singer Clive Lea as well as Jimmy Powell. The band had a residency at Hamburg's famous Star Club where they shared the stage with The Beatles amongst many others. The following year, The Rockin' Berries were auditioned by TV pop producer/Decca Records talent scout Jack Goode who showed little interest in signing the band to a contract but indicated that their vocalist Jimmy Powell had some potential. The rejected group went back to Germany to continue their bookings at the Star Club but by the summer of 1962, Jimmy Powell along with two other group members left and returned to Birmingham. Jimmy Powell soon contacted Jack Goode who promptly signed him up to a recording contract.
Jimmy Powell and The Five Dimensions #1, Scotland, September 1963 - left to right: Brian Kattenhorn, Rod Stewart, Mike Webb, Jimmy Powell, Louis Cennamo, Gary Leport
The first record release for Jimmy Powell on the Decca Records label was an energetic cover of Buster Brown's Sugar Baby which showcased Jimmy's considerable talent as a raunchy R&B performer. This was also highly significant as it can be considered the first "Brum Beat" single. While the record did not chart, it is likely Jimmy Powell's best known song and got his career off to a good start. Two more good singles soon followed but by 1963, The Beatles were making a big impact on the British charts and singing "groups" - not solo performers were now the "in" thing.
London, 1963/64 - Jimmy Powell and The Five Dimensions #4, left to right: Brian Kattenhorn, Pete Hogman, Martin Shaw, Louis Cennamo, Kenny White and Jimmy Powell
Jimmy Powell went down to London where he became involved with the local blues scene at London's famous Marquee Club. Jimmy's new manager Malcolm Nixon, introduced him to a hot blues act that he'd named "The Five Dimensions" and Jimmy was soon given the position of lead vocalist. About 6 months later, Jimmy Powell added a second vocalist/harmonica player whose name was Rod Stewart. According to Jimmy Powell, Rod stayed as part of the line-up for about a year. Rivalry between the two singers led to Rod leaving and taking some of the band with him to back Chuck Berry on a British tour (the Dimensions were unable to do the tour because of contractual commitments). Unfortunately, there's no recordings of Rod Stewart performing with The Dimensions.
Jimmy Powell lead vocal, harmonica
Rod Stewart lead vocal, harmonica
Chick Catterhorn drums
Louis Cennamo bass guitar
Gary LePorte lead guitar
Pete Hogman harmonica
Kenny White rhythm guitar
Martin Shaw guitar
Tim Munns bass guitar
Dave Fullford vocal, guitar
Alan Stone bass guitar, vocal
Steve Bolton guitar, vocal
Mick Green drums
Paul Smith saxophone
Rod Godwin guitar
Alan "Ted" Shepherd tenor saxophone, flute
Will Morris bass guitar
Tom "Duke" Russell drums
Stan Byers trumpet
Tony Lucas bass guitar
Ray Spiteri lead guitar, vocal
Bob Spiteri bass guitar, vocal
Derek Bunt drums
Clem Lee drums
Fred Seddon Hammond organ
Jimmy Powell 1960s Record Releases
Sugar Babe Part 1/Sugar Babe Part 2 (Decca F 11447) 1962
Tom Hark/Dance Her By Me (Decca F 11544) 1962
Remember Them/Everyone But You (Decca F 11570) 1963
That's Alright/I'm Looking For A Woman (Pye 7N 15663) 1964
Sugar Babe/I've Been Watching You (Pye 7N 15735) 1964
I Can Go Down/Love Me Right (Strike JH 309) 1966
Unexpected Mirrors/Time Mends Broken Hearts (Decca F 12664) 1967
I Just Can't Get Over You/Real Cool (Decca F 12751) 1968
I Can Go Down/Captain Man (Young Blood YB 1002) 1969
House Of The Rising Sun/That's Love (Young Blood YB 1006) 1969
Sugar Man/Slow Down (Young Blood YB 1008) 1969
Jimmy Powell and The Five Dimensions #8, 1965 - left to right (top): ?, Jimmy Powell, Martin Shaw, left to right (bottom): Tim Munns, Kenny White, BJ Wilson
I'm looking for any albums Jimmy Powell
I'm looking for any albums Jimmy Powell
Although the Byrds' Fifth Dimension was wildly uneven, its high points were as innovative as any rock music being recorded in 1966. Immaculate folk-rock was still present in their superb arrangements of the traditional songs "Wild Mountain Thyme" and "John Riley." For the originals, they devised some of the first and best psychedelic rock, often drawing from the influence of Indian raga in the guitar arrangements. "Eight Miles High," with its astral lyrics, pumping bassline, and fractured guitar solo, was a Top 20 hit, and one of the greatest singles of the '60s. The minor hit title track and the country-rock-tinged "Mr. Spaceman" are among their best songs; "I See You" has great 12-string psychedelic guitar solos; and "I Come and Stand at Every Door" is an unusual and moving update of a traditional rock tune, with new lyrics pleading for peace in the nuclear age. At the same time, the R&B instrumental "Captain Soul" was a throwaway, "Hey Joe" not nearly as good as the versions by the Leaves or Jimi Hendrix, and "What's Happening?!?!" the earliest example of David Crosby's disagreeably vapid hippie ethos. These weak spots keep Fifth Dimension from attaining truly classic status. [The CD reissue has six notable bonus tracks, including the single version of the early psychedelic cut "Why" (the B-side to "Eight Miles High"), a significantly different alternate take of "Eight Miles High," "I Know My Rider" (with some fine Roger McGuinn 12-string workouts), and a much jazzier, faster instrumental version of "John Riley."]
VA - Nice: An Anthology of Peter Eden Productions (1966-1973)
If Peter Eden's name is known at all to rock fans, it's because of his brief but important role in Donovan's career, in which he was the singer's co-manager in the mid-'60s when Donovan put out his first records. However, Eden was also involved in managing and producing a number of other British artists from the mid-'60s to the early 1970s, though none of them remotely approached Donovan's success. None of them were remotely as talented as Donovan either, to be frank. But some of them were OK, and this LP (a limited edition of 1000) collects 16 tracks he produced between 1966 and 1973, all but one of them from the '60s (and only four of which were previously released). It almost acts as a gallery of British rock and pop styles of the period, including as it does some pretty, fey pop-psychedelia (the Crocheted Doughnut Ring's 1967 single); fair late-period freakbeat (the Fingers' "Just Like Loving You Baby"); rough singer/songwriter folk (two unissued early-1969 tracks by Bill Fay); more traditional-based British folk ("Stories of Jesus," an unreleased early-1969 cut by original Incredible String Band member Clive Palmer); and quasi-vaudeville/jugband (Barry Fantoni's "Sadie Moonshine," the most unpleasant performance here). No, nothing here is great, though the Fingers' 1966 B-side "Oh" is good early Beatlesque pop that's almost worthy of the Rutles, and Palmer's "Stories of Jesus" is interesting as his British folk-at-heart sound is sympathetically dressed up with low-key strings. the Fingers' 1966 45 "I Go to Sleep" also holds interest as a cover of a Ray Davies composition that the Kinks didn't release in the 1960s. But for specialized British '60s rock collectors, it has some appeal as a roundup of very rare material, though Eden really didn't establish a signature production sound. The history of both Eden and these tracks in particular is thoroughly covered in the lengthy liner notes.
Heimatliche Klдnge - Deutsche Schallplatten-Kleinlabels
Native Sounds - Small German Record-Labels
Two Faces - The Gents Inc. / The Capras Falcon L-ST 7067
01 - Sinking Sun
02 - Cool Girl
03 - In The Dark Of The Night
04 - Swansea Morning
05 - In My Dreams
06 - Getting The Blues
07 - Status And Pictures
08 - The Girl
09 - Restless
10 - Carolina
11 - Beginning Of Autum
12 - My Life
1 - 6 The Gents Inc.
7 - 12 The Capras
More than any other band, the Smoke epitomized the groove of Swinging London -- which was especially ironic when one considers that, at the height of their success, they sold more records in Europe than England. Their sound fell somewhere between mod and the Beatles -- their instrumental attack was somewhat Who/Small Faces-like, yet they delighted in cheerful vocals and infectious harmonies and melodies. Only slightly popular on their home turf, and unknown in the U.S., their biggest success was in Germany (oddly enough, for such a British-sounding group). The band hailed from York, where bassistZeke Lund and lead guitarist Mal Luker began playing together in a band called Tony Adams & the Viceroys, whose lineup eventually came to include drummer Geoff Gill. Though the band was successful locally, enjoying a decent fan base with a solid, basic rock & roll sound, built on early-'60s songs, Lund,Luker, and Gill could hear the changes going on around them in music, with the rise of Merseybeat and the blues, R&B, and soul-based music coming out of London. They eventually decided to strike out on their own, playing a more ambitious repertory. They linked up late in 1964 with singer Mick Rowley and rhythm guitarist Phil Peacock, refugees from a band called the Moonshots. The resulting band, the Shots, played a hard brand of R&B, similar to what the Small Faces were doing -- they were taken on as clients by Jack Segal and Alan Brush, a pair of London-based agents (Segal had the know-how, Brush the financing), who fronted them money for rehearsals and equipment, and got them signed up with independent producer and music publisher Monty Babson, who cut four sides with the group, two of which were issued as a single under license to EMI-Columbia. It was at just about that time that events began breaking against the band -- they lost Phil Peacock, who wasn't comfortable with the more complex sounds the rest of the band were interested in generating, and they lost their financing. They gamely decided to carry on as a quartet, the single-guitar configuration lending itself to an edgier sound, and sought new backing.
That was how they ended up in a bizarre management situation, when they were offered a seeming rescue by a pair of twin London-based entrepreneurs, Ron and Reg Kray. Renowned today the world over as notorious gangsters, the Kray brothers have been immortalized in books, including Profession of Violence and Reg's own autobiography Born Fighter, and one feature film (The Krays), and were even memorably satirized in one Monty Python sketch ("The Piranha Brothers"). They were among the top crime kingpins in London at the time, and among their other enterprises, they had an interest in a few clubs, and thought at one point that a more direct participation in the entertainment business might prove lucrative. (And yes, it sounds funny to read it, or even to write it, but that is exactly how Morris Levy, an American gangster and club owner, came to go into the record and publishing business in New York, and ended up founding Roulette Records). Thus, they signed the group and became the Shots' managers, but were never able to do anything with them in terms of bookings -- strong-arming clubs for "protection" money was more their specialty than lining up engagements. The band decided to abandon the contract, and when they were served with an injunction, they were left unable to perform.
As luck would have it, however, they still had a publishing and recording contract with Babson and access to his studio, and so they took advantage of their ban on performing by writing and making records. Indeed, thanks to the fact that they were barred from performing as a band, the Shots probably had more free time to write and record than any working group in England (even the Beatles were touring in those days, though not for much longer). It was during this period that they also decided to change their name, dropping the Shots -- no one remembered the Moonshots by this time, anyway -- in favor of the Smoke. One of the songs they came up with was "My Friend Jack," a mod-flavored psychedelic number authored by Rowley and Gill. With its march beat and mix of shimmering and crunchy reverb-laden guitar, it was a catchy, striking, aggressively trippy work -- in America, it would've been called psychedelic punk -- that now seems like the most delightfully subversive piece of freakbeat, somewhere midway between the Who's power-chord-drenched teen anthems and the trippy cheerfulness of, say, "Dr. Robert" by the Beatles. Its drug references were so potent that the song had to be rewritten before EMI would touch it; released in February of 1967 -- a period in which "Penny Lane" and "Strawberry Fields Forever" were as challenging or ambitious as the label wanted to be -- the single only made it to number 45 before being banned by the BBC, limiting it to three weeks on the U.K. charts. In Europe, however, the record soared; the group were also fortunate enough to appear on an installment of the German television show Beat Club, alongside Jimi Hendrix, the Who, and Cliff Bennett & the Rebel Rousers. "My Friend Jack" ended up riding the German pop charts to the top, and earned the Smoke a place on a tour with the Small Faces and the Beach Boys.
They were now stars, although not in the place they'd expected to be. The single charted high in Switzerland, France, and Austria as well, and suddenly there was demand for a Smoke LP in Germany. They delivered this in the form of It's Smoke Time, comprised of the best of the year-old tracks recorded for Babson in the spring, summer, and fall of 1966. The band actually relocated to Germany, while continuing to release records in England -- their recording contract was sold to Chris Blackwell in late 1967, and he soon took over their management as well; they were free of their obligations to the Krays by then (who had, in any case, been distracted by a gang war and a prosecution). They cut some fine psychedelia and crossed paths with the members of Traffic in the studio during this period. The end came out of a degree of weariness, after five years of work and perhaps the sincere belief that they'd already enjoyed most of the fruits of their brief pop stardom -- they declined to obey a Blackwellsummons to return to England for a recording session, and that marked the effective end of their history, at least as a classic British beat/freakbeat outfit. Mick Rowley remained in Germany, where, as the voice and frontman for the band, he had a natural following. Luker, Gill, and Lund did finally return home and went to work for Babson's Morgan Studios, working in various bands within Babson's orbit, including Blue Mink, Orange Bicycle, and Fickle Pickle. A latter-day version of the Smoke -- principally organized around Zeke Lund -- surfaced in a distinctly '70s mode early in the ensuing decade but made no great impression on anyone. Meanwhile, "My Friend Jack" lingered in the memory of music mavens for its cheerful brand of psychedelic punk, and even It's Smoke Time -- an incredible obscurity outside of Germany -- enjoyed a reputation as one of the most cheerful records ever made. By the mid-'90s there were reissues of the single and the LP on CD, and in 2002 a comprehensive double CD of the complete work of the '60s and '70s versions of the band was available.
Thursday, July 26, 2012
The Byrds - Turn Turn Turn (1965)
01 - Turn Turn Turn (lp Turn Turn Turn)
02 - It Won't Be Wrong (lp Turn Turn Turn)
03 - Set You Free This Time (lp Turn Turn Turn)
04 - Lay Down Your Weary Tune (lp Turn Turn Turn)
05 - He Was A Friend Of Mine (lp Turn Turn Turn)
06 - The World Turns All Around Her (lp Turn Turn Turn)
07 - Satisfied Mind (lp Turn Turn Turn)
08 - If You're Gone (lp Turn Turn Turn)
09 - The Times Are A Changin' (lp Turn Turn Turn)
11 - Oh! Susannah (lp Turn Turn Turn)
12 - Turn! Turn! Turn! (To Everything There Is A Season) (sg version)
13 - She Don't Care About Time (sg version)
14 - The Day Walk - Never Before
15 - Stranger In A Strange Land (Instrumental Backing Track Take 10)
16 - The World Turns All Around Her (Alternate Mix_Bongo Version)
The Byrds' second album, Turn! Turn! Turn!, was only a disappointment in comparison with Mr. Tambourine Man. They couldn't maintain such a level of consistent magnificence, and the follow-up was not quite as powerful or impressive. It was still quite good, however, particularly the ringing number one title cut, a classic on par with the "Mr. Tambourine Man" single. Elsewhere, they concentrated more on original material, Gene Clark in particular offering some strong compositions with "Set You Free This Time," "The World Turns All Around Her," and "If You're Gone." A couple more Bob Dylan covers were included, as well, and "Satisfied Mind" was their first foray into country-rock, a direction they would explore in much greater depth throughout the rest of the '60s.
One of the greatest debuts in the history of rock, Mr. Tambourine Man was nothing less than a significant step in the evolution of rock & roll itself, demonstrating that intelligent lyrical content could be wedded to compelling electric guitar riffs and a solid backbeat. It was also the album that was most responsible for establishing folk-rock as a popular phenomenon, its most alluring traits being Roger McGuinn's immediately distinctive 12-string Rickenbacker jangle and the band's beautiful harmonies. The material was uniformly strong, whether they were interpreting Bob Dylan (on the title cut and three other songs, including the hit single "All I Really Want to Do"), Pete Seeger ("The Bells of Rhymney"), or Jackie DeShannon ("Don't Doubt Yourself, Babe"). The originals were lyrically less challenging, but equally powerful musically, especially Gene Clark's "I Knew I'd Want You," "I'll Feel a Whole Lot Better," and "Here Without You"; "It's No Use" showed a tougher, harder-rocking side and a guitar solo with hints of psychedelia. [The CD reissue adds six less impressive (but still satisfying) bonus tracks and alternate takes from the same era.]
Although they only attained the huge success of the Beatles, Rolling Stones, and the Beach Boys for a short time in the mid-'60s, time has judged the Byrds to be nearly as influential as those groups in the long run. They were not solely responsible for devising folk-rock, but they were certainly more responsible than any other single act (Dylan included) for melding the innovations and energy of the British Invasion with the best lyrical and musical elements of contemporary folk music. The jangling, 12-string guitar sound of leader Roger McGuinn's Rickenbacker was permanently absorbed into the vocabulary of rock. They also played a vital role in pioneering psychedelic rock and country-rock, the unifying element being their angelic harmonies and restless eclecticism.
Often described in their early days as a hybrid of Dylan and the Beatles, the Byrds in turn influenced Dylan and the Beatles almost as much as Bob and the Fab Four had influenced the Byrds. the Byrds' innovations have echoed nearly as strongly through subsequent generations, in the work of Tom Petty, R.E.M., and innumerable alternative bands of the post-punk era that feature those jangling guitars and dense harmonies.
Although the Byrds had perfected their blend of folk and rock when their debut single, "Mr. Tambourine Man," topped the charts in mid-1965, it was something of a miracle that the group had managed to coalesce in the first place. Not a single member of the original quintet had extensive experience on electric instruments. Jim McGuinn (he'd change his first name to Roger a few years later), David Crosby, and Gene Clark were all young veterans of both commercial folk-pop troupes and the acoustic coffeehouse scene. They were inspired by the success of the Beatles to mix folk and rock; McGuinn had already been playing Beatles songs acoustically in Los Angeles folk clubs when Clark approached him to form an act, according to subsequent recollections, in the Peter & Gordon style. David Crosby soon joined to make them a trio, and they made a primitive demo as the Jet Set that was nonetheless bursting with promise. With the help of session musicians, they released a single on Elektra as the Beefeaters that, while a flop, showed them getting quite close to the folk-rock sound that would electrify the pop scene in a few months.
the Beefeaters, soon renamed the Byrds, were fleshed out to a quintet with the addition of drummer Michael Clarke and bluegrass mandolinist Chris Hillman, who was enlisted to play electric bass, although he had never played the instrument before. The band was so lacking in equipment in their early stages that Clarke played on cardboard boxes during their first rehearsals, but they determined to master their instruments and become a full-fledged rock band (many demos from this period would later surface for official release). They managed to procure a demo of a new Dylan song, "Mr. Tambourine Man"; by eliminating some verses and adding instantly memorable 12-string guitar leads and Beatlesque harmonies, they came up with the first big folk-rock smash (though the Beau Brummels and others had begun exploring similar territory as well). For the "Mr. Tambourine Man" single, the band's vocals and McGuinn's inimitable Rickenbacker were backed by session musicians, although the band themselves (contrary to some widely circulated rumors) performed on their subsequent recordings.
The first long-haired American group to compete with the British Invasion bands visually as well as musically, the Byrds were soon anointed as the American counterpart to the Beatles by the press, legions of fans, and George Harrison himself. Their 1965 debut LP, Mr. Tambourine Man, was a fabulous album that mixed stellar interpretations of Dylan and Pete Seeger tunes with strong, more romantic and pop-based originals, usually written by Gene Clark in the band's early days. A few months later, their version of Seeger's "Turn! Turn! Turn!" became another number-one hit and instant classic, featuring more great chiming guitar lines and ethereal, interweaving harmonies. While their second LP (Turn! Turn! Turn!) wasn't as strong as their debut full-length, the band continued to move forward at a dizzying pace. In early 1966, the "Eight Miles High" single heralded the birth of psychedelia, with its drug-like (intentionally or otherwise) lyrical imagery, rumbling bassline, and a frenzied McGuinn guitar solo that took its inspiration from John Coltrane and Indian music.
the Byrds suffered a major loss right after "Eight Miles High" with the departure of Gene Clark, their primary songwriter and, along with McGuinn, chief lead vocalist. The reason for his resignation, ironically, was fear of flying, although other pressures were at work as well. "Eight Miles High," amazingly, would be their last Top 20 single; many radio stations banned the record for its alleged drug references, halting its progress at number 14. This ended the Byrds' brief period as commercial challengers to the Beatles, but they regrouped impressively in the face of the setbacks. With the band continuing as a quartet, McGuinn, Crosby, and Hillman would assume a much larger (actually, the entire) chunk of the songwriting responsibilities. The third album, Fifth Dimension, contained more groundbreaking folk-rock and psychedelia on tracks like "Fifth Dimension," "I See You," and "John Riley," although it (like several of their classic early albums) mixed sheer brilliance with tracks that were oddly half-baked or carelessly executed.
Younger Than Yesterday, (1967) which included the small hits "So You Want to Be a Rock 'n' Roll Star" and "My Back Pages" (another Dylan cover), was another high point, Hillman and Crosby in particular taking their writing to a new level. In 1967, Crosby would assert a much more prominent role in the band, singing and writing some of his best material. He wasn't getting along so well with McGuinn and Hillman, though, and was jettisoned from the Byrds partway into the recording of The Notorious Byrd Brothers. Gene Clark, drafted back into the band as a replacement, left after only a few weeks, and by the end of 1967, Michael Clarke was also gone. Remarkably, in the midst of this chaos (not to mention diminishing record sales), they continued to sound as good as ever on Notorious. This was another effort that mixed electronic experimentation and folk-rock mastery with aplomb, with hints of a growing interest in country music.
As McGuinn and Hillman rebuilt the group one more time in early 1968, McGuinn mused upon the exciting possibility of a double album that would play as nothing less than a history of contemporary music, evolving from traditional folk and country to jazz and electronic music. Toward this end, he hired Gram Parsons, he has since said, to play keyboards. Under Parsons' influence, however, the Byrds were soon going full blast into country music, with Parsons taking a large share of the guitar and vocal chores. In 1968, McGuinn, Hillman, Parsons, and drummer Kevin Kelly recorded Sweetheart of the Rodeo, which was probably the first album to be widely labeled as country-rock.
Opinions as to the merits of Rodeo remain sharply divided among Byrds fans. Some see it as a natural continuation of the group's innovations; other bewail the loss of the band's trademark crystalline guitar jangle, and the short-circuited potential of McGuinn's most ambitious experiments. However one feels, there's no doubt that it marked the end, or at least a drastic revamping, of the "classic" Byrds sound of the 1965-1968 period (bookended by the Tambourine Man and Notorious albums). Parsons, the main catalyst for the metamorphosis, left the band after about six months, partially in objection to a 1968 Byrds tour of South Africa. It couldn't have helped, though, that McGuinn replaced several of Parsons' lead vocals on Rodeo with his own at the last minute, ostensibly due to contractual obstacles that prevented Parsons from singing on Columbia releases. (Some tracks with Parsons' lead vocals snuck on anyway, and a few others surfaced in the 1990s on the Byrds box set).
Chris Hillman left the Byrds by the end of 1968 to form the Flying Burrito Brothers with Parsons. Although McGuinn kept the Byrds going for about another five years with other musicians (most notably former country picker Clarence White), essentially the Byrds name was a front for Roger McGuinn and backing band. Opinions, again, remain sharply divided about the merits of latter-day Byrds albums. McGuinn was (and is) such an idiosyncratic and pleasurable talent that fans and critics are inclined to give him some slack; no one else plays the 12-string as well, he's a fine arranger, and his Lennon-meets-Dylan vocals are immediately distinctive. Yet aside from some good echoes of vintage Byrds like "Chestnut Mare," "Jesus Is Just Alright," and "Drug Store Truck Drivin' Man," nothing from the post-1968 Byrds albums resonates with nearly the same effervescent quality and authority of their classic 1965-1968 period. This is partly because McGuinn is an erratic (though occasionally fine) songwriter; it's also because the Byrds at their peak were very much a unit of diverse and considerable talents, not just a front for their leader's ideas.
the Byrds' diminishing importance must have stung McGuinn doubly in light of the rising profiles of several Byrds alumni as the '60s turned into the '70s. David Crosby was a superstar with Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young; Hillman, Parsons, and (for a while) Michael Clarke were taking country-rock further with the Flying Burrito Brothers; even Gene Clark, though he'd dropped out of sight commercially, was recording some respected country-rock albums on his own. The original quintet actually got back together for a one-off reunion album in 1973; though it made the Top 20, it was the first, and one of the most flagrant, examples of the futility of a great band reuniting in an attempt to recapture the lightning one last time.
The original Byrds continued to pursue solo careers and outside projects throughout the 1970s and 1980s. McGuinn, Clark, and Hillman had some success at the end of the 1970s with an adult contemporary variation on the Byrds' sound; in the 1980s, Crosby battled drug problems while Hillman enjoyed mainstream country success with the Desert Rose Band. the Byrds' legend was tarnished by squabbles over which members of the original lineup had the rights to use the Byrds name; for quite a while, drummer Michael Clarke even toured with a "Byrds" that featured no other original members. the Byrds were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1991; Gene Clark died several months later, and Michael Clarke died in 1993, permanently scotching prospects of a reunion involving the original quintet.
The 27-song Best of Dennis Yost & the Classics IV compilation, originally released through Capitol-EMI's "Legendary Masters Series," pretty well covers the essentials of the Classics IV's history, from their early post-doo wop releases, emulating the Four Seasons and the Diamonds, to their smoother, subtler contemporary pop sound, established by "Spooky" and maintained through the hits "Stormy" and "Traces." The sound is good, though there's room for improvement from the early-'90s-vintage digital mastering, and the collection is comprehensive to the point of including a few unreleased tracks, on top of the hits and B-sides. And the annotation comes up to this series' usual standard of excellence.
The history of British rock 'n' roll of the 1960's is filled with the names of homegrown performers who, despite enjoying the favor of critics, music columnists, and club audiences, never managed to make a permanent mark on the record charts.Alan Bown was a case-in-point, a trumpet player who organized a series of bands -- principally known as the Alan Bown Set -- in the 1960's who got good reviews and attracted healthy live audiences, but which were never able to successfully transfer their club sound onto vinyl. Bown didn't start pursuing a professional music career until after having served a hitch in the Royal Air Force -- he organized his first band soon after returning to civilian life in the early 1960's. At the time, there were several different types of music competing for attention in England, including homegrown rock 'n' rollers, teen pop singers, trad-jazz and soft-jazz outfits, and folk groups of various sizes and shapes. Bown's instrument was the trumpet and his main interest were jazz and American rhythm-and-blues, and there was room for outfits of that sort at the time -- his first group made it to the performing Mecca of Hamburg, Germany, playing at venues such as the Star Club and crossing paths with the Beatles, Tony Sheridan et al. He later joined the John Barry Seven during its stint backing Brenda Leeon a tour of Europe, and became a formal member of the studio version of the group, until it broke up in 1964 amid Barry's burgeoning career as a film composer. He formed the Alan Bown Set in 1964, featuring Bown on trumpet, Jeff Bannister on vocals and keyboards, Dave Green on sax, clarinet, and flute, Pete Burgess on guitar, Stan Haldane on bass, and Vic Sweeney on drums. They built up a reputation for exciting live shows and then headed for London, where their resourcefulness at filling their repertory with obscure but worthwhile American r&b and soul numbers quickly got them a loyal following in club patrons and trade reviews. They had rivals in this field, including Zoot Money and his Big Roll Band, Cliff Bennett & The Rebel Rousers, and Georgie Fame & The Blue Flames, and by all accounts Bown and company could hold their own with the best of them. But what each of them did, as early as 1964, that Bown didn't do, was land a recording contract, and Georgie Fame and Cliff Bennett suddenly had chart-soaring singles and international recognition from the songs "Yeh Yeh" and "One Way Love", respectively. In 1965, the Alan Bown Set was discovered by bassist-turned-producerTony Reeves and signed to Pye Records by Reeves' superior, Tony Hatch. They might've made a noise on the charts if their intended single, a cover of Curtis Mayfield's "I'm The One", had gone out as planned -- instead, it ended up as the B-side and the "play" side "Can't Let Her Go" was ignored by the powers-that-were. The group continued to succeed as a club band and by the second half of 1965 had become a top attraction at the Marquee in London; such was their recognition, that they began getting offers to play all across England, and over the next year they did precisely that -- they lost guitarist Green in early 1966, his slot filled by saxman John Helliwell (later part of Supertramp), and they expanded further with the addition of singer Jess Roden, which allowed Bannister to devote his attention to playing keyboards. This version of the group was actually much stronger, a fact perhaps reflected by the three singles that they cut and released in 1966, among them the classic "Emergency 999", which, like their other releases, failed to chart -- but it later found an audience among Northern Soul enthusiasts. Pye finally hit upon the notion of simply recording a live set by the group, which (in tandem with a set by Jimmy James & The Vagabonds on the other side) was released as London Swings -- Live At the Marquee Club. That LP is now considered one of the most important and essential ever released by Pye Records. Guitarist Pete Burgess departed the line-up in November of 1966 and was replaced by Tony Catchpole, and it was this version of the group that played out the end of its contract in 1967. This included one last Pye single, "Gonna Fix You Good (Everytime You're Bad)" b/w "I Really, Really Care", and a song for a French film entitled Jeu De Massacre, featuring Jacques Loussier. The next few months saw the group go through a complete transformation, into a psychedelic band known simply as The Alan Bown, which was signed to the Deram label (after one release on Verve Records) in 1968. With Robert Palmer on vocals, they finally enjoyed a minor hit single with "Still As Stone", and after Palmer left to join Dada and Vinegar Joe, the group carried on with Gordon Neville in their last incarnation circa 1970-71, with Mel Collins on saxophone, by which time they'd moved over to Island Records, no less. The Alan Bown called it quits in 1971, with Bown himself becoming a member of Jonesy before moving into A&R work with British CBS Records, whileJeff Bannister jumped to Jess Roden's group Bronco, and Vic Sweeney worked with Kevin Coyne. Gordon Neville was later a part of Elton John's backing band, as well as working with Rick Wakeman, and Mel Collins went on to work with King Crimson and Alexis Korner, as well as (seemingly) almost everyone else in British music over the next few decades. ~ Bruce Eder, All Music Guide
One of the strangest stories in rock history, the Monks were formed in the early '60s by American G.I.s stationed in Germany. After their discharge, the group stayed on in Germany as the Torquays, a fairly standard beat band. After changing their name to the Monks in the mid-'60s, they also changed their music, attitude, and appearance radically. Gone were standard oldie covers, replaced by furious, minimalist original material that anticipated the blunt, harsh commentary of the punk era. Their insistent rhythms recalled martial beats and polkas as much as garage rock, and the weirdness quotient was heightened by electric banjo, berserk organ runs, and occasional bursts of feedback guitar. To prove that they meant business, the Monks shaved the top of their heads and performed their songs -- crude diatribes about the Vietnam war, dehumanized society, and love/hate affairs with girls -- in actual monks' clothing.
This was pretty strong stuff for 1966 Germany, and their shocking repertoire and attire were received with more confusion than hostility or warm praise. Well known in Germany as a live act, their sole album and several singles didn't take off in a big way and were never released in the U.S., it was rumored, because the lyrical content was deemed too shocking. They disbanded in confusion around 1967, but their album -- one of the most oddball constructions in all of rock -- gained a cult following among collectors, and has ironically made them much more popular and influential on an international level than they were during their lifetime. Bassist Eddie Shaw's 1994 autobiography, Black Monk Time, is a fascinating narrative of the Monks' stranger-than-fiction story. ~ allmusic.com
The Monks made one of the most aggressively odd albums of the 1960s with their first (and only) studio album, 1966's Black Monk Time; between the minimal, metronomic pounding of the drums, the fierce howl of the guitar, the metallic clank of the amplified banjo, and the nervous bleat of the organ, the five American GI's who created this music while stationed in Germany in the midst of the Cold War created something that (at least at the time) was utterly unique in rock & roll. But the Monks didn't start out sounding quite so fierce; from their humble beginnings as a fairly conventional beat combo called the Torquays, the group evolved into something significantly different, and as guitarist Gary Burger once told a journalist, "It probably took us a year to get the sound right." The Early Years 1964-1965 is an aural document of the Monks as they were trying to sort out the proportions of their singular approach. The bulk of The Early Years is devoted to a ten-song demo cut in 1965 featuring most of the tunes that would latter appear on Black Monk Time, along with a few others that would be left by the wayside. While most of the ingredients of Black Monk Time were here, the almost psychotic zeal and ferocious energy that set the album's performances on edge aren't quite in evident; this music may stomp and clank, but it doesn't bite, and that's a big difference. (The lyrics are different on some songs as well, and sound a bit more polite in this context.) The demos also preserve a thankfully short-lived shtick in which keyboard man Larry Clark played a short introduction reminiscent of a hymn at the beginning of each tune, followed by Burger announcing the selections with more good cheer than they truly merit. The set closes out with both sides of a 1964 single the group cut when they were still the Torquays; the music is admirably taut and while it's a long way from the menace of Black Monk Time, it comes much closer to matching the energy they summoned on the album. Given the long shadow cast by the Monks' small body of work, The Early Years 1964-1965 is a welcome footnote to the singular accomplishment that was their album, but this music (which was previously released on the album Five Upstart Americans) preserves a stop along the way before they reached greatness.~allmusic.com
THE BEST OF CHARLIE GRACIE
CAMEO PARKWAY RECORDINGS01. Butterfly
02. Ninety-Nine Ways
04. Just Lookin'
06. Wanderin' Eyes
07. I Love You So Much It Hurts
08. Cool Baby
09. You Got A Heart Like A Rock
10. Baby You've Changed
11. Yea, Yea (I'm In Love With You)
12. Snuggle Up Baby
14. Crazy Girl
15. Dressin' Up
16. Love Bird
18. Butterfly (Demo Version)
19. Ninety-Nine Ways (Demo Version)
20. I'm So Glad It's You
Charlie Gracie is usually categorized as a rockabilly singer, though his style was a far cry from the frantic wailing of Charlie Feathers, Gene Vincent, Eddie Cochran, or the other true masters of the form. Gracie had great pipes and could make with a variety of vocal acrobatics in the rockabilly manner, but his material had a polish that was akin to the later teen idols who came out of his home town of Philadelphia, and his records lack the giddy danger of the Southern masters, instead suggesting a place where benign teen pop tried to catch up to what Elvis brought to the charts. Despite all this, Gracie made some fine records during his brief fling with fame, and this disc features 20 sides committed to tape during his tenure with Cameo Records in the 1950s, where he enjoyed his biggest hits. While Gracie would have been served better with more songs like the Elvis-styled "Fabulous," the easy but energetic "Cool Baby," and the swaggering "Just Looking," even glossier and less rockin' tunes such as "Butterfly," "Plaything," and "Yea Yea (I'm in Love with You)" make it clear this guy was miles ahead of Pat Boone, Fabian, and other pretty boys who were starting to clutter the charts around the same time. Given Cameo-Parkway's longtime embargo on CD releases, this is the first digital-era collection of Charlie Gracie's best and best-known work, and while this confirms he wasn't a major artist, there is some pleasing first-era rock to be heard here, and one imagines Gracie could have stayed in the spotlight a few years longer if he'd gotten the treatment his voice deserved.