Monday, October 20, 2014

New England Spotlight: The Squires - Going All The Way and Go Ahead


The New England Battle of The Bands continues into this new week. We start the week with a monster double sided record. On the mythical Mount Garagemore, I might put this record right next to The Chocolate Watchband's Are You Gonna Be There/No Way Out. It's just that good.

The Squires were a bunch of high school buddies out of Bristol, Connecticut (perhaps best known today for being the home of ESPN). In the fall of '66 they loaded into the van and drove to New York to record a few original songs. One of them was the mega gem, Going All the Way, from drummer and singer, Michael Bouyea. Thomas Flannigan was holding the Fender Jazzmaster guitar, John Folick owned a cheap bass that looks to me to be a Kay; and Kurt Robinson from nearby Torrington, played a mean Farfisa organ. The band would later add a drummer and move Bouyea to the front, but that guy isn't on this recording.

The A-Side is the Bouyea composed Going All The Way. The jangly guitar, the lonely bird chirp of the far off organ, the lyrics that exude cockiness, the blazingly fast jazzmaster guitar lead that takes up nearly 1/4 of the entire song. Michael Bouyeau's scream that leads us into said guitar solo. It is perfect. Perfect, perfect, perfect. The Flip-Side is nearly as good. Go Ahead, also composed by Bouyeau, is a classic folk rock, pop number and tells the tale of the 60s garage, time-tested theme of "bad girl does good boy wrong." With all it's suspended chords and efficient 2:07 of length, this could have been an early Byrds number. 

The record was released on Atco Records in September of 1966. But Atco fell down on the job with a monster record on their hands. The Atlantic Records subsidiary did not promote their local gem and the number of pressings of the record is rumored to be 2,500 or less. I want it. 
Until next time, we'll see you On The Flip-Side!

Friday, October 17, 2014

New England Spiotlight: The Cobras - I Wanna Be Your Love


New England battle of the bands continues on this bitchin' Friday!

This is one of those killer songs I almost forgot about. Until today when I pulled out an old vinyl comp that had been sitting in my bins for about 25 years untouched. I Wanna Be Your Love is the first song on New England Teen Scene Vol 2.

Little is known about this band, but a bit of digging around on the internet has turned up a few hints. One sight claims the boys are from Smyrna Mills, Maine. This is beyond a small town nestled near the Eastern border of Maine with Canada. How these lads found enough people to form a band is beyond me. But, hey, stranger things have happened. 

More digging shows that The Cobras were a trio. Gary Leavitt was on vocals and guitar. His brother Jay Leavitt on drums. I don't know who was playing that bitchin' bass. The Cobras lone record was released in 1966 (weren't they all?) on Big Beat Records (the label's only release) and produced by a cat named Bobby Herne. He is the same guy that recorded the legendary Shaggs record, Philosophy of the World, in Revere, Massachusetts. Us Flipsters are betting The Cobras made the same trip from the north woods of New England down to Revere to record their disc. We're also betting that dad drove the station wagon.

I Wanne Be Your Love is a wild stomp of a song with a quasi-Bo Diddley beat on crack and wild screaming and demonic Jagger influenced vocals. The bass work is top notch and pounding. I particularly dig the run after the first verse and at the end of the guitar solo. The guitar solo is quite impressive (again...Smyrna Mills?!?!?!?!). Banging drums and some depraved lyrics like "your eyes are colder than ice cream" make this an A+ gem. A Mount Garagemore, if you will. 

I Wanna Be Your Love was written by Levitt-Levitt (note that their names are misspelled). One source shows Gary Leavitt as passing away in 1975. Jay Leavitt is apparently still kickin' around Maine. Contact us Jay, let us know about this recording and clear up some info on this cool record!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

New England Spotlight: The Bold - Gotta Get Some


"Gotta get some. Yeah baby!" We're back for more of our battle of the bands in New England.

The year is 1966. The town is Springfield, Massachusetts. Four college kids living in nearby Amherst stride into a studio and spew onto wax their love of college girls, sexual voyeurism, and the need to let it erupt. The song is the very boldly titled Gotta Get Some and the band call themselves, what else, The Bold. A pretty cool and different sounding name in their day. The bold result of this trip to Springfield is one of the best garage rock songs to ever come out of the holy grail year of 1966. Snarly vocals, fuzzed out guitar and an incessant 4/4 rhythm back up some of the best sexual gratification lyrics you will ever hear.
"Gotta get some. (Yeah baby).

Sitting in class, waiting for time to pass
I'm eyeing some girl and getting mad at the world
When I'm out for the day, I meet some nice thing on the way
I said "if you're free come along with me"

(When I get too close and the feeling comes over me)
Gotta Get Some!

On the beach when it's just out of reach
All the girls gather round, you know they're digging my sound
Holding hands in the sand, getting wet, getting tan
I'm so ready to go my mind's gonna blow

(When I get too close and the feeling comes over me)
I Gotta Get Some!

In the night when the feeling is right
And the band is playing you know they are out of sight
I'm dancing with my girl and we're both uptight
you know it can't be wrong the way she turns me on.

(When I get too close and the feeling comes over me)
I Gotta Have My!

After hours when we're hanging around
digging sounds, and crowded pathways, said somebody's tired
well it's too late for home, I know I ought to phone
what can anybody say when you're feeling this way?

(When I get too close and the feeling comes over me)
I Gotta Get Some!

Yeah baby, yeah.

Yeah, I gotta get some!
WoWWWWW"


Wednesday, October 15, 2014

New England Spotlight: The Blue Beats - Extra Girl and She's The One

We're going to spend a little time looking at records by geographical location. A bit of an old school Battle of the Bands, if you will. We're going to start in New England, since that is where the country started anyway. 

A few weeks back we wrote about The Blue Beats who hailed from Ridgefield, Connecticut, an affluent bedroom community of New York City. (You can read that article here.)  The quartet of Kit Miller, Peter Robbins, Lance Drake and Jack Lee kicked out two nice records for Columbia Records. Today we look at both sides of their first single. Extra Girl was written by Lee and Drake, while the Flip-Side of She's The One was written by Lee and Robbins. The single was released with a picture sleeve on September 6, 1966. The single didn't do too much, which is a little surprising as Extra Girl is quite the catchy number. Both sides, but particularly She's The One, mine that same vocal-first/pained-John Lennon influenced genre that The Merry-Go-Round and The Left Banke also did so well. 
Until next time, we'll see you On The Flip-Side!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Elektra Records Spotlight: The Stooges - I Wanna Be Your Dog and 1969

I Wanna Be Your Dog
1969
It's the last day of wrapping ourselves in the soul of Elektra Records. The last post had us in Detroit, Michigan as Elektra's PR man, Danny Fields, took in a show by the revolutionary MC5. As we noted, Fields called Elektra's President, Jac Holzman, and asked for money to sign MC5 on the spot. At the same time, Fields asked MC5 if they knew of other acts in the area he should take in. The response was a suggestion for Fields to drive down to Ann Arbor, Michigan and check out a brand new band that had grown out of a modestly talented band called The Iguanas. The drummer of that band, James Osterberg, was now the singer of this new band calling themselves The Stooges. The singer was now going by the name Iggy Stooge, a name derived from the trailings of his last band and his new band.  

As a member of The Iguanas, James Osterberg took in two shows in Ann Arbor by The Doors. The drummer with larger aspirations watched as Jim Morrison antagonized the audience with his detached performance. 
So, here’s this guy, out of his head on acid, dressed in leather with his hair all oiled and curled. The stage was tiny and it was really low. It got confrontational. I found it really interesting. I loved the performance [...] Part of me was like, 'Wow, this is great. He’s really pissing people off and he’s lurching around making these guys angry.' People were rushing the stage and Morrison’s going 'Fuck you. You blank, blank, blank.”' You can fill in your sexual comments yourself. The other half of it was that I thought, 'If they’ve got a hit record out and they can get away with this, then I have no fucking excuse not to get out on stage with my band.' It was sort of the case of, 'Hey, I can do that.' There really was some of that in there. (www.classicrockrevisted.com)
Fields was not totally sold but he signed the band for very little money, $5000. It was money from the same wire transfer intended for MC5. The Velvet Underground's John Cale was brought in as producer to work with this band that was hard to put in a category. Sure, you can see how they were influenced by Elektra's biggest band, The Doors, but the delicate musicianship wasn't there. Sure you can see how they were influenced by their friends, The MC5, but the speed wasn't there. Sure you can see how they were influenced by the garage bands of their day, such as The Swamp Rats, but The Stooges were more about the dirge of music. And as such you can see how The Stooges were influenced by John Cale's minimalist band, The Velvet Underground.

With Iggy at the forefront (soon to be rechristened Iggy Pop), Ron Asheton on guitar, his brother Scott Asheton on drums and Dave Alexander on drums, the band banged out a crude, influential album. The first single from the recording sessions was released in June of 1969. The songs were the band composed, I Wanna Be Your Dog on the A-Side and 1969 as the Flip-Side. Not exactly radio friendly material. The single and the album would land with a thud. But over the years the album and the band would grow to the status of legendary as bands like The Ramones, The Damned, Red Kross and The Sex Pistols would all incorporate The Stooges early work into their own recordings. 

Until next time, we'll see you On The Flip-Side!

Friday, October 10, 2014

Elektra Records Spotlight: MC5 - Kick Out The Jams

Day five of our Elektra Records love-fest has us traveling to Michigan.

Elektra's PR man, Danny Fields, was visiting the working class city of Detroit in the Summer of 1968 when he took in a show by a Motor City band that had already released two singles on local labels. With The Doors over a year into their legacy, Elektra Records had real skin in the game and could once and for all be considered a real national label. So when Danny Fields came to your show, it was bound to turn some heads. MC5, with their alleged propulsive live shows and radical left political proselytizing had already been lauded by members of Cream and by Rolling Stone Magazine.

Based on one performance, Fields called back to Los Angeles and told Jac Holzman to sign the band on the spot and unheard. Holzman did just that, wiring Fields $15,000 to sign them on the spot. Further, Holzman and producer Paul Rothchild agreed with MC5's and Danny Fields' suggestion to not go into a studio, but rather record their first album entirely live. Over the course of two days -- October 30th and 31st -- MC5 recorded their debut album at the Grand Ballroom in Detroit in front of a live audience.

Individually they were Wayne Kramer and Fred "Sonic" Smith on guitar, Michael Davis on bass, Dennis Thompson on drums and Rob Tyner on vocals. Collectively they were a punch in the face. Elektra picked the second song of their set, Kick Out The Jams, for the band's major label debut released on December 26th, 1968. The release truly marks a seminal moment in rock-n-roll history. MC5 sounded like nobody else. They were creating a brand new sound. A sound that is universally heralded as the father of Punk Rock. The Ramones, The Sex Pistols and, most transparently, The Damned all grew out of the rib that was MC5.

Kick Out The Jams showed just how fast the band evolved from their first recordings dating back to 1966. And it showed how radical Elektra Records was willing to be. The label was already pushing the envelope with the subversive and hard to control, The Doors. Now they were just flat out ripping that envelope up. Despite the label editing the now infamous introduction to Kick Out The Jams for the single release, the record was immediately banned by a major retailer in Detroit who feared MC5's political insurrection would cause a backlash at the department store. MC5 doubled down and took out full page ads denouncing the department store as capitalist pigs. In the end it was too much for Elektra Records and they dropped the band after the first album. But it was too late. The new sound was out - a very Detroit sound, I might add -- and the groundwork for the future of rock-n-roll was set with this simple little release on Elektra Records. So, right now, right now, let's....Kick Out The Jams mother fuckers!
Until next time, we'll see you On The Flip-Side!

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Elektra Records Spotlight: The Doors - Break on Through and End of the Night

Break On Through
End Of The Night
Day four of our Elektra Records spotlight has us, perhaps predictably, moving from Love to The Doors. The two bands were closely tied and it was in fact members of Love that first brought The Doors to the attention of Jac Holzman and Paul Rothchild in the Spring of 1966. It would be a fateful introduction for all involved.

It was immediately clear to all that Elektra Records had something bigger on hand than anything they had ever had before. The Doors were the complete package: charisma, sound, musicianship, songwriting skills, willing to tour and work hard. Perhaps sensing they had finally got one over on Columbia and Capitol records, Elektra Records put everything they had into the band including preferential treatment for studio time and marketing dollars. Elektra would give the band a picture sleeve for the debut single and they even filmed the band on stage to make a video to promote the new band. Not exactly a common move in 1967. Meanwhile, the agoraphobic Love would languish in the mountains above Hollywood, literally looking down at a billboard promoting The Doors' inaugural album. Arthur Lee and his band would be left to watch The Doors make the circuit of TV shows promoting their explosive debut single, Break On Through.

The prophetically titled Break On Through, primarily composed by guitarist Robbie Krieger, was released in February of 1967, weeks after the release of the album and seven months after the song was recorded. The Flip-Side of the debut single, End Of The Night, also appeared on the debut album. It's a gentle number that really showcased Robbie Krieger's under appreciated guitar skills.  

Shout out to staff engineer Bruce Botnick and producer Paul Rothchild for elevating these recordings to a new level. 

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Elektra Records Spotlight: Love - Stephanie Knows Who and Orange Skies

Stephanie Knows Who
Orange Skies
Elektra Records...day three. 

Day one of this series talked about how Elektra President, Jac Holzman, narrowly missed out on the hottest band on the Sunset Strip due to a moment of hesitation (you can read that article here). Day two talked about how staff producer, Paul Rothchild, flew to Chicago to sign a racially-mixed buzz-creating band before they could get stolen away. (you can read that article here). But that band wasn't about to become hit makers. Not by a long shot.

Day three has us here, learning from those two experiences and filled with Love. 

Elektra Records combined their first two forays into the world of rock-n-roll and finally got the rock band they were looking for on their third attempt. A bona fide Sunset Strip sensation (like The Byrds) and racially mixed band (like the Paul Butterfield Blues Band) who created songs like few others could. The band was Love and featured a roadie from The Byrds and a charismatic frontman in Arthur Lee. The band hit it right out of the gate for Elektra Records with their massive reimagining of Burt Bacharach's My Little Red Book. That single charted at No. 52 nationally and finally gave Elektra a rack upon which they could hang their hat. They were real players with a real rock band.

Paul Rothchild and Jac Holzman gave the band great latitude to experiment in the studio. That resulted in one of the wildest (and complicated to record) singles in Love's impressive sophomore release, Lee's A-bomb of a song, 7&7 is...

We feature today the first pressing of the band's third single for Elektra Records. This single was released in October of 1966 as Stephanie Knows Who with a Flip-Side of Orange Skies. Two weeks later the single was unceremoniously withdrawn and Stephanie Knows Who was replaced with the more radio friendly, She Comes In Colors. All three songs appeared on the band's wonderful second full length album, Da Capo.

Stephanie Knows Who was written by Arthur Lee and tells the tale of a girl with whom he was rather smitten. According to an interview with Johnny Echols in Ugly Things Magazine, Stephanie had a way about her that had many in the band fawning over her. She used to string along Arthur Lee pretty good and in turn she was his muse for both this song, and the replacement A-Side. The Flip-Side was written by rhythm guitarist, Bryan MacLean, the former roadie for The Byrds. Arthur sings over Bryan's usual saccharine lyrics and is able to pull them off with sincerity. Not easy to do when you have stanzas about cotton candy! Who knows, perhaps Stephanie may have been the muse here again.
Until next time, we'll see you On The Flip-Side!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Elektra Records Spotlight: The Paul Butterfield Blues Band - Mellow Down Easy and I Got My Mojo Working

Mellow Down Easy
I Got My Mojo Working
Day two at our look at Elektra Records. Yesterday we looked at the missed opportunity Elektra Records president, Jac Holzman, had in his hands when he released only one song by The Byrds...under the quizzically named The Beefeaters. Columbia Records came and stole the band away from his light grasp on what would become a hit machine and a hugely influential band. It took 11 months before Holzman would get back in the saddle with another release.

In October of 1965 Elektra released the first published recording of The Paul Butterfield Blues Band. The Chicago band had been turning heads in Chicago for about a year and Holzman and staff producer, Paul Rotchild, were eager to not let another buzz creating band slip away. It also bears noting that the Paul Butterfield Blues Band was a band of three white guys and two black guys. May not seem like a big deal today, but it was in 1965. It was downright unusual and even a little risky for a little known label to market them. Paul Butterfield was the frontman and harmonica player, Elvin Bishop on rhythm guitar, Mike Bloomfield on lead guitar, Jerome Arnold on bass and Sam Lay on drums. The latter two had done time in Howlin' Wolf's house band and thus had some serious street creditionals.

That first Elektra single for The Paul Butterfield Blues Band were two blues covers of Chess Recordings songs. The A-Side was Mellow Down Easy, a number originally recorded by Little Walter in 1954. The Flip-Side is the Muddy Waters standard, I Got My Mojo Working, first laid down in 1957. Sam Lay takes the vocal duties on The Paul Butterfield Blues Band's recording.

[Of note, also on that first 1965 album, was the first recording of Born In Chicago, which we featured just last week by a band called The Blue Beats. Check that out here]
Until next time, we'll see you On The Flip-Side!

Monday, October 6, 2014

Elektra Records Spotlight: The Beefeaters (aka The Byrds) - Please Let Me Love You and Don't Be Long

We're going to spend this week looking at some records from the Los Angeles based Elektra Records. Elektra was formed in 1950 by Jac Holzman and Paul Rickolt and focused on re-releasing old classical music records whose copyright had lapsed.

Like every sensible human being who had seen The Beatles perform on The Ed Sullivan show on February 9, 1964, Holzman saw the future of music in America. He decided he needed to sign a modern rock act. But who? Who should be the first rock act on the label? There was a band called The Byrds that were getting some attention down on Sunset Strip. The band had recorded a number of demos at World Pacific Studios and they were shopping the masters around. A trepidatious Holzman decided to take a chance on the band, but for reasons that are murky at best, Holzman decided to release the record under a fake moniker, the very British sounding one of The Beefeaters. The record flopped. Not surprising. Elektra had no skin in the rock-n-roll game, The Beefeaters didn't exist and fans of The Byrds didn't even know they released their first record. 

While Holzman pondered what to do next, Miles Davis, who could also see the future of rock in America, got wind of this new group and their debut single. He called his A&R man at Columbia, Allen Stanton, and told Stanton about an LA group he should check out. By the time Holzman had called The Byrds back to sign them, they were signing with Columbia Records just days after Holzman released their first record. 

The Byrds would soar to great heights with their mega-label support and Holzman would lick his wounds and try to learn from his mistake. But more on that tomorrow. 

Until next time, we'll see you On The Flip-Side!


Thursday, October 2, 2014

The Blue Beats - Born In Chicago

Despite what the title says, The Blue Beats actually were NOT born in Chicago. The band, in fact, hailed from Ridgefield, Connecticut and were Kit Miller, Peter Robbins, Lance Drake and Jack Lee. The band released two singles, both on the titan of a label, Columbia Records.

Born In Chicago is the Flip-Side of their second single, released in April of 1967, and is the only one of their four recordings that is not an original song. The number was written by San Francisco music guru Nick Gravinites who wrote for a ton of San Francisco performers like Big Brother and the Holding Company, Janis Joplin, Quicksilver Messenger Service and the Chicago band, The Paul Butterfield Blues Band. The latter first recorded Born In Chicago in 1965. This is likely where The Blue Beats picked up on it and, rather ironically, gave it a British Invasion feel. 
Until next time, we'll see you On The Flip-Side!


Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Link Wray and His Wraymen - Raw-Hide

We return today with more music recorded in a three track chicken shack in Accokeek, Maryland just south of Washington, DC. That "recording studio" was run by Link Wray where the pioneering guitarist and his brothers laid down some nasty sounding material. Today's razor blade-like recording is the Link Wray composed, Raw-Hide. This was Link Wray and The Wraymen's first release for Epic Records - his third overall - and got a release date on the first Tuesday of 1959.

Dig that nasty Danelectro Longhorn guitar going through a tiny little Premier amplifier which had been modded by Link by running the amp into two fair ground PA system speakers. The band played the number live at high volume. These chickens must have dropped some cracked eggs for a few weeks after this recording. 
Until next time, we'll see you On The Flip-Side!

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Bunker Hill - The Girl Can't Dance

Bunker Hill was the secular stage name of one Mr. David Walker, a gospel singer from Washington, DC. Sometime around 1962 a local producer named Vernon Wray got hipped do David Walker's vocal prowess. He talked Walker into giving a shot at recording a pop record. David Walker was game but apparently worried about what his proselytizing friends might think of his turnabout. Thus Walker was rechristened as Bunker Hill. 

Vernon Wray took the newly christened Bunker Hill into Vernon's chicken shack studio in Accoceek, Maryland. He set Bunker Hill up with his two brothers and their band. That band was Link Wray and His Raymen. They laid down five tracks that fateful day. From that came three wonderful singles on the Mala Records label. The Girl Can't Dance was the final record for Bunker Hill, released in September, 1963. 

I can talk about how wild, how primal, how extremely raw Bunker Hill and Link Wray's attack are on this, but you can hear that for yourself. Just play it loud. Share it. Spread the love of this rare little 1:54 record and raise a glass (physically or metaphysically) to Bunker Hill and the Wray brothers for giving us this gem exactly 51 years ago this month.

In the first picture below, that is David Walker (aka, Bunker Hill) on the bottom right. Link, bottom left on the second photo. 

Until next time, we'll see you On The Flip-Side!

Monday, September 29, 2014

The Strangers - Caterpillar Crawl and Rockin' Rebel

Caterpillar Crawl
Rockin' Rebel
The instrumental group, The Strangers, hailed from sunny San Diego, California and were fronted by guitarist, Joel Scott Hill. In the winter of 1959 the band recorded two edgy numbers for fledgling Titan Records. Hill's guitar work is guttural and sharp edged and not too dissimilar from what Link Wray was recording in a chicken shack out in Washington DC about the same time. 

Caterpillar Crawl was given the A-Side nod. A slow, brooding number, Hill's guitar work oozes with a hard edged tone running through a copious amount of reverb. A few years later, Los Angeles group, The Rumblers, would reimagine this song as Boss and release it on Downey Records. (Both Downey and Titan Records were distributed by Dot Records). We wrote about the Flip-Side of that Rumblers 1962 single here

The Flip-Side of The Strangers single was the even more Link Wray-like original composition, Rockin' Rebel. A fine upbeat number with some rockabilly guitar riffs lifted straight from the Scotty Moore playbook.
Until next time, we'll see you On The Flip-Side!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The Trenchmen - Chains On My Heart


We scan the globe to bring you good, rare music! And today we found a real nice and rare record from the middle of nowhere. Only 1000 of these were ever pressed. The Trenchmen hails from the tiny farming community of Minot, North Dakota and they released this one and only single. The Trenchmen recorded the number in Minneapolis with engineer Tom Jung at the controls back in 1967.

Soon after the record came out, the four members graduated high school and turned to other interests. Singer and bassist Jim Mackey joined the Navy while the others went off to...well, the things you do when you are a teenager in North Dakota. Greg Jordahl, the group's guitarist was 15 when the band recorded his original composition, Chains On My Heart. The single was released on their own made-up label, Impact Sound. Alan Mattson plays the freaky-ass dominant organ and Ken White is on drums. Jordahl also wrote the flip-side, Travel With Me. It's a decent, trippy song, but not as strong as the A-side.

We'll see you next time On The Flip-Side!

Monday, September 22, 2014

The Turtles - Almost There

The Turtles weren't exactly known for  hard edge rock-n-roll, but this may change your mind (a little). 

The Turtles released their first single in July of 1965. That single, on White Whale Records, was a harmless cover of Bob Dylan's It Ain't Me Babe. But the lucky kid that bothered to flip the record over was treated to an original composition by the band's lead singer, Howard Kaylan. That song is Almost There, a pounding beat number reminiscent of The Kinks' instrumental, Revenge. The song tells the tale of a young man on a journey to see his girl. The poor lad has to travel 10 miles everyday just to see his baby. Thank goodness, like all Angelenos, he had a car to use to see her, bye and bye. 

It appears that this single is not only the first record ever released by the Los Angeles band, but also the first record ever released by the short lived White Whale Records. Not a bad start for either. 
Until next time, we'll see you On The Flip-Side!