Monday, September 27, 2010

Song of the Week: The Misunderstood - Who Do You Love?


[Editors note: This post has been revised to correct some misinformation in the original post. Clarification on a few points were given by Steve Whiting, bassist for The Misunderstood. He has provided a wealth of information in the comment section below. We Flipsters hope you'll take time to read his illuminating comments.]

If ever a band was appropriately named, it was London, England's, no, I mean Riverside California's The Misunderstood. The band only put out enough singles that you could count them on one hand. And they were only released in the UK. But what singles they are!

The Misunderstood hailed from Riverside, California where they plugged away in southern California clubs with great anonymity. That's when British radio host, John Peel happened into an outdoor performance at the Riverside Mall at which our heroes-of-the-week were performing. (Discerning readers of On The Flip-Side may recall that John Peel has a direct connection to one of our favorite self-penned articles...which can be found here). Peel knew that something great lurked just beneath the surface and convinced the boys to make the trip to London where he would represent them. In a must read of Ugly Things magazine that chronicles, with great detail, the misunderstood story of The Misunderstood, the music fan is left with that all too familiar lament of "what could have been?". Poverty, broken promises, the Vietnam draft, work permit issues, drug use and a general haze of bad luck, left The Misunderstood failing to live up to their true potential.

Not long after the boys landed in the UK, rhythm guitarist, Greg Treadway, heard the potential door knock of the draft and, coupled with the memory of a girlfriend left behind, headed back to the US. Into the void steps British guitarist, Tony Hill. Hill and the Yanks only record 7 songs together. Four of them produced as singles for Fontana Records. Those were: Children of the Sun/I Unseen and I Can Take You To The Sun/Who Do You Love? It is no understatement that all output in London are of thee highest quality. Each song is better than the last one to which you just listened and each demonstrates great songwriting ability, musicianship and singing. Our song of the week is the startlingly original cover of Bo Diddley's Who Do You Love?




The Misunderstood's massive re-imagining of Who Do You Love opens with a descending riff played by bassist Steve Whiting while lead guitarist Glenn Campbell (no, not that Glen Campbell) plays a gentle ambient riff on his pedal steel. He is then joined by guitarist Tony Hill just before the band explodes into the first verse. Campbell's virtuosity on the pedal steel is at play throughout the entire song, but nowhere better than when the band dials it down during the musical interlude and Campbell's slide guitar work interfaces beautifully with Hill's chordal fills. As he did on all songs the band recorded, bassist Steve Whiting drops some amazing bass lines that give the song a beautifully articulated bottom (regular readers know that here at Flip-Side's Rocky Mountain HQ, we love well articulated bottoms!). Drummer Rick Moe controls the band's manic energy that vacillates between the tranquil and the violent. And then, not to be outdone, there was the growl of singer Rick Brown who had the chops to front a band of such dynamic quality. If you ever get a chance to hear him belt it out in Find The Hidden Door, then you know what I'm talking about. The highlight of the song, for this flipster, is at the end of the verse directly following the music break [at 1:44]. That's when Rick Brown and Glen Campbell "duet" on the line, "Now tell me, who do you love?". Those three seconds of vocals and slide guitar float together in the dark, open void of the song like a ship sailing off the end of the world.

In the end, it was the end. The band dispersed into the sunset, riding their own ways. Glen Campbell went back to Riverside where he kept busy in the music biz. Others found their way towards spiritual quests high in the Tibetan mountains. Others found themselves in the Navy stationed in Alaska (presumably he could see Russia from his front door). All in all, they went about life.

For a great, must read article on the band, I strongly suggest you take a look at Mike Stax's definitive work in Ugly Things #21 from 2003 and even plunk down a few dollars on The Misunderstood's Lost Acetates CD or LP available from UT.

Last, it kills me that this band gets tagged as a British band (I'm talking to you Rhino Records!). This band is from California, with a great musician in Tony Hill hailing from the UK. Just clearing up some misunderstandings of The Misunderstood (with a little help from Steve Whiting and Mike Stax).

Enjoy.

12 comments:

  1. Great job Morgan. That Ugly Things article was epic as I recall. As cool as this is as a reinvention of the song, I think I'd almost rather hear it without the vocals. The music is so inventive and mesmerizing that the familiar words are kind of a distraction.

    I'm imagining a parallel universe where Glenn C. replaces Jeff Beck in the Yardbirds (and Led Zep never happens).

    ReplyDelete
  2. I won't go so far as to say that I would like to hear it without words, but I certainly get your point. A slight changing of the words and you have yet another great original from the band. Glenn Campbell was really an amazing guitarist. So was Tony Hill. Campbell really would have added something nice to the Yardbirds. His guitar work really fills out a song without getting busy. However, I can't see a pedal steel player in the Yardbirds. But hey, if it would have staved off LZ, then maybe that would have been a good thing.

    ReplyDelete
  3. MISUNDERSTOOD History (Part 1)

    Hi! My name is Stephen Whiting and I was the bass player in The Misunderstood; Mike Stax sent me a link to this site.

    First, I'd just like to thank you for choosing our version of "Who Do You Love" for your 'Song of the Week'. It's an honor, after all these years, to have folks still like and appreciate our music, and again, I'm grateful.

    Beyond that, in the kindest way possible, I have to point out that there is a bit of misinformation in the accompanying write-up. The story seems to change every time I read something about us, and being a fan of historical accuracy, I'd like to correct the essential errors.

    John Peel (who we knew as 'John Ravenscroft') "discovered" us at an outdoor concert at the Riverside Mall, naturally in Riverside, CA - NOT in a club in Los Angeles. He introduced himself after we finished playing and our friendship began from those moments. You can read about it in his own words in 'Ugly Things'. Ask Mike Stax which issue; he probably has some back-issues still available (yeah, please support his work - he does a great job!!!).

    Greg Treadway wasn't drafted. Concerned that he might be soon, and being very unhappy with the slow progress of the band while in England, he decided to return to the US, reunite with the love of his life (Diane, to whom he's still happily married), and then joined the US Navy to AVOID being drafted. People weren't drafted into the US Navy during the VietNam war. He's the one who ended up in Alaska, but with the Navy - not the Army.

    Greg left England in August 1967. Our recordings were done in November and December of the same year. As nice as the story plays, they weren't done as "a parting gift"; Greg was long gone by the time we went into the studio for those sessions. Our music evolved significantly with the loss of Greg and the addition of Tony Hill, and what was caught on tape during those Nov/Dec recordings is the result - the best we would ever be allowed to become, a few moments of 'greatness' captured forever.

    (to be continued below)

    ReplyDelete
  4. MISUNDERSTOOD History (part 2)

    The pseudo-classical "descending riff" that you hear at both the beginning and ending of the song wasn't played by Tony. It's actually me, playing my bass through a fuzz box - one of the very first instances of recorded/released fuzzbass (I think Paul McCartney, on 'Rubber Soul', is the only one who beat me!). I was sitting on my bed in our basement flat out in Wandsworth (our first home in the UK) and created that lick. Somebody in the band, probably either Rick B. or Tony, liked it and started fooling around together with me. Pretty soon, the whole band was groovin' on it, and somehow, it became 'Who Do You Love'.

    That's how we wrote things in those days - as a band. In spite of later songwriter credits to the contrary, there's not a single song recorded by The Misunderstood after Rick B. and I joined the band in '65 (when we were called 'The Blue Notes') that was written any other way. We lived together, we played music together, and we wrote music together too. As the myths and fantasies grow, some would have you believe otherwise, but what I've written is the way it actually happened.

    Anyway, if you listen closely, after I begin the lick, you'll hear Glenn fading in with long sustaining notes; when I start doubling the notes in the 2nd half of the lick, then you can hear Tony come in with a really nicely articulated counter-melody...good stuff!! I was very fortunate to play with a group of really GREAT guys who also happened to be incredibly talented, and together, we were just much more than the sum of our parts.

    Well, that's probably way more than enough for this double posting - probably more than anyone really wants, but I had fun writing it and hope you enjoy a little historical insight. The rest of the write-up is pretty much right-on, so I'll quit playing 'critic', and with my deepest sincerity, thank you again for choosing us for this honor.

    Unfortunately, things didn't turn out the way we had hoped, but still, we were blessed to be a part of The Misunderstood, and blessed even now to be remembered so fondly. Best wishes to you all. Our dream may have faded, but because of folks like you, our music lives on... :)

    P.S. Sorry for the 'anonymous' posting, but everything else I tried was rejected as having a 'URL error'; oh well, I guess kinda' appropriate for The Misunderstood. If anyone wants to contact me, I can be reached on FB under my name - Stephen Whiting.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Hey Stephen, Thanks for the informative comment. I thought Flippy got the instrumentation wrong for the intro. But I didn't catch that it was the bass doing the main riff, though it is more bass-like on the part where you double the notes.

    I remember that same Flipster putting on the Misunderstood collection some twenty years ago and being blown away. To me its the pinnacle of psychedelic-tinged music firmly grounded in rock and roll. And I continue to be amazed. Thank you.

    I was wondering if the band played 'Who Do You Love' live in this format, bookended with distinct instrumental parts? Also, was it recorded in one take? Can you tell us anything more about its recording?

    ReplyDelete
  6. Hello, Jack, and thanks for your kind comments!

    Regarding your questions...

    Yes, we played it exactly the same live as we recorded it; we didn't know any other way! You have to realize that this was all done before multi-track recording came into vogue. I'm not sure which recording this is, as we recorded it twice - once at IBC Studios (I think it was IBC - Mike Stax would know better than I do, as he has all the details documented), and once at the Fontana studio. Fontana was the label which signed us; they were a subsidiary of EMI.

    Anyway, I'm really not sure, but Fontana/EMI MAY have had a new desk (console) installed at that point, along with a 4-track tape machine. I say that, (1), because I do remember that we had heard of it, and (2), because I also distinctly remember the only two things we ever overdubbed: Tony and me singing back-up vocals (for the sake of clarity and eliminating instrument bleed), and Tony's acoustic guitar part at the end of "I Can Take You To The Sun" (he had to make a QUICK change from electric to classical guitar, and it was just easier in the studio to do it separately).

    However, music was often mixed-down to mono, even on 2-track recordings, using the 2nd track for overdubs and then mixing to a single track. I know that we did that WAY before London was even a dream for us, and we have pix of me and George Phelps (a previous band member) doing BG vocal overdubs at Locy Sound studio in Riverside, CA - before Glenn even joined or we had ever met John Peel!

    I don't even know if the London recordings are stereo or mono, but it's possible that what we recorded at Fontana/EMI was originally on 3 or 4 tracks. The IBC recordings were definitely 2-track only. It's really virtually impossible to say for sure from my vantage point, but a real sleuth could probably find out when Fontana installed the 4-track equipment and solve the mystery. If it was installed, we used it; if not, then naturally, that was an impossibility.

    For us, though, it really didn't make a whole lot of difference, as we never had the opportunity to learn how to use the studio as a creative tool, so, with the above noted exceptions, everything we did was 'live' - that's just who and what we were at that point in time. Everyone was able to do whatever the song called for, whether instrument changes, background vocals, etc., in real time.

    I think that pretty well answers your questions. We definitely played this live exactly as your hear it here. Depending on where this was recorded in London, it's either one take (live) or one take+Tony and me singing background on the 'who do you love' choruses. Please note that ‘one take’ doesn’t necessarily mean ‘first take’ - we probably did more than one take of each song (2 or 3 maybe), then simply chose the best one. Entire albums were recorded in a couple of days back then, and everyone had to have the music down cold. That’s one of the biggest things distinguishing recording in that era from contemporary recording, although we were right at the cusp of the radical changes about to happen. I’m sure that, if we hadn’t been destroyed by the US gov’t, we’d have had some wild fun with the studio as an instrument too!!!

    Not really sure what else you'd like to know, but if you're still curious, get back to me (either here or on FB) and I'll be happy to answer as best I'm able. Thank you so much for your interest and appreciation. Enjoy, and all the best to you!!!

    Stephen Whiting - The Misunderstood/Bass

    ReplyDelete
  7. Stephen -

    Thank you for stopping by Flip-Side and helping clear up some misunderstandings that my innate lazy nature had produced. That's what I get for trying to quickly write an article on a busy day based off of my vague memory of liner notes from a wickedly old LP and Mike Stax's 2003 mega article. I have made the changes to the article on the specific solecisms to which you drew attention. (I note that you note you are a fan of "historical accuracy". This Internet thing must be killing you dude!).

    Now, on to a personal note that Jack Hayden already touched on in his comment. Ever since Before the Dream Faded was released in 1982, I have been a huge fan of The Misunderstood. I brought the record home (on my bike, because I was too young to drive) from the record store at which I worked at in Davis, California and played the LP over and over again.

    I recall a conversation I had with Mr. Hayden, a longtime bandmate of mine, in about 1988 as we formed a band called The Lionhearted together. I recall saying that I wanted us to sound like The Misunderstood and Australia's The Masters Apprentices. Both dynamic bands that stretched beyond the sound of their day and produced refreshingly original music. In fact, that band we formed covered "I Unseen" regularly and made an aborted attempt at covering "Find A Hidden Door." The latter was a bit too much for our limited ability to harmonize.

    As the bassist for The Lionhearted, I was particularly infatuated with your impressive bass work on those recordings and learned them inside and out. As I noted to the bemused lyricist of "Born Loser" by Murphy and The Mob on this same site, sometimes a brief action we take can have a long lasting impact. Such is the case with your recordings. As quick as they may have been recorded, or as undefined as a bass line may have been written, they became a part of our collective enjoyment and became, if you will, historical record. So, my point can be summed up as: isn't it damn cool that a kid who was one month old when you made a record in London, became obsessed with that record 15 years later? So much so that he learned every nuance of it, and, 43 years after the record was recorded, wrote an article about how much he still loves it. For that, I say thank you.

    Morgan

    ReplyDelete
  8. Hi, I'm Rick Brown, and Stephen's old bad mate and bro. I would like to corroborate what he has written, and say, I cannot emphasize enough just how good Steve was on Bass. In the end he was, and remains in recorded history, way more innovative and creative than even his idol, Samwell Smith of Yardbirds. To this day no one can top him in my opinion, and I've been listening for a long time. He was able to get his bass on a sustaining feedback that allowed him to take off his bass and leave the stage and go watch his amp pulsate with light from his playing. Yeah: Auto-pilot blues.

    And it's also correct to say that we would never be known today without adding Tony Hill. As far as I'm concerned THE MISUNDERSTOOD is the music made with Tony Hill in London. Glenn and Moe were both really great rockers.

    But my all time favorite is our UK version of "I'm Not Talkin" - which had Greg Treadway on Guitar, before we met Tony. So The Misunderstood with Tony only made SIX (6) UK Recordings. And that Demo of I'm Not Talkin' is what clinched our deal with Fontana Records.

    Hey, thanks a bunch!

    ReplyDelete
  9. Rick and Steve. Thanks for your input. It has made this my favorite post in two years of running this site.

    Morgan

    ReplyDelete
  10. Fantastic to hear both Rick Brown & Stephen Whiting chime in here.
    Now if we could just you get you guys to do a reunion show with Glenn!!
    What dya say??

    ReplyDelete
  11. Yeah, great to have Rick and Stephen's input but I would disagree with the late 1967 date for their brilliant recordings and Greg leaving on August 1967.
    It should read 1966 as you can clearly see on the label of their only UK 45, "I can take you to the sun"/"Who do you love"...

    ReplyDelete
  12. I agree Aldo. Thanks for stopping by. Y'all come back and see us soon, ya hear?

    ReplyDelete