Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Song of the Week: X - Nausea

[originally posted 4/6/09]
I'm reposting this as I still have Ray Manzarek on the mind. We've already posted his work as a performer, and here we touch on his work as a producer. 

The year was 1977. The town, Los Angeles. The Eagles have replaced the Beach Boys as the pimps of California culture. The Carpenters represent the "get in the back of the Van and get mellow" sound of LA. Gary Wright is performing the truly retched Dream Weaver (worse song ever?) so a bunch of vapid, spandex wearing roller skaters can get their wheels moving down Venice Beach.

Someday in that year. Somewhere in that town. A man acerbically calling himself John Doe walked to a poetry reading in Santa Monica where he met a recent Florida transplant named Christine Cervenka. Neither of our protagonists had a taste for the pop culture music of the day and they quickly started sharing their passion for something different. Later that year they would marry and form a band with rockabilly enthusiast Billy Zoom and drummer DJ Bonebreak. In keeping with his established anti-hero theme, John Doe would name the band X and Christine rechristened herself Exene. The malcontents quickly created a buzz in the small club circuit and caught the watchful eye of The Doors organist, Ray Manzarek, who would get the band a record contract and produce their first album, Los Angeles.

Recorded in January of 1980, and released a few months later, Los Angeles would not only prove to be a huge break from the music norms laid down by the top-selling acts of the day, but it was also quite different than the other California Hardcore bands like The Germs or The Circle Jerks who were also at the vanguard of a new and very important scene. Where bands like The Germs would tout their lack of musical ability as a badge of honor in a virtuoso/Steely Dan crazy world, the members of X actually had musical talent and weren't afraid to show it. And, similarly, X was very different from their British punk comrades as well. Where British punk bands like GBH (Great Britain's Hell) relied on shock value to get their message across, X found their shock value in not being outlandish. It was all in the approach to the music. It was a message of back to basics. 

Los Angeles painted a beautifully grimy view of the world and tinseltown was the canvass. It was a world where violent rape was swept under the rug (Johnny Hit And Run Pauline), where the gritty dark-side of the city of angels turned a wide-eyed girl into a homophobic, racist who flees in fear back to her small town (Los Angeles) and where the material culture of Los Angeles is exposed as soul sucking and self abusive (Sex and Dying In High Society). In their world Los Angeles wasn't the glamour town seen on The Love Boat. It was a town that would make your soul sick. Sick, so sick, that you prop your forehead upon the sink and say "oh Jesus Christ my head is going to crack like a bank."  Where tonight you'll fall asleep in clothes so late like a candy bar wrapped up for lunch. That's all you get to taste. Like poverty and spit. Poverty and spit. Your bloody red eyes will turn to Nausea. A dark song with a relentlessly catchy barre chord riff that moves along with purpose and confidence. A Hammond B3 organ (very, not punk) played by Manzarek pounds away at the listener. You close your eyes and realize you're talking out of harmony now. You can't remember what you said. Cut it out! You feel retarded now. You take the scissors to your head. It's Nausea.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Song of the Week: The Kaleidoscope - I Found Out

We hope you had a good Memorial Day (for those of us in the States). We hit you this fresh Tuesday morning with a song from The Kaleidoscope (the US one, not the two UK bands of the same name). The Kaleidoscope were Solomon Feldthouse, Chris Darrow, Chester Crill, John Vidican, and the extremely talented, David Lindley. Today's SotW was released on October 13 of 1967 on Epic Records, just three days after my birth.  It also appeared as the lead-off song on The Kaleidoscope's second album, A Beacon From Mars, released in '68. The song is the sublime, I Found Out. To this listener the song really takes flight when Lindley (in the polka dot shirt in the pic below) gets a chance to show off his unique phrasing on the lead. 

We hope you enjoy it and we'll see you next time On the Flip-Side!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Song of the Week: The Outsiders -- You Mistreat Me and Sun Going Down

You Mistreat Me
Sun Going Down
Radio Promo

[originally posted on 11/16/09]
Word just hit us that Ronnie Splinter passed away this past weekend. Here is a repost of an earlier article about his band, The Outsiders.

Greetings from a large wooden crate suspended over the shipping docks of Amsterdam. It's 1965 and we have a Date With The Dutch! Wether you're feeling groovy, hip, with it or whatever you like to call yourself; or even if others or you yourself regard you as a square, here is one minute and fifty nine seconds of music by the youngsters recorded in Holland especially for you!

Our date is happening because a local music magazine, Muziek Express, has the idea to publish songs from some of the local kids. Their virgin foray into the music publishing business is with a band called The Outsiders. They're led by a funny little singer and songwriter by the name of Wally Tax and an inventive guitarist by the name of Ronnie Splinter. Together they front a five piece band that is the biggest thing going in this soggy little country. Bigger than the ridiculously talented Cuby + The Blizzards and bigger still than Q65. They're even bigger than sticking your finger into a dyke on a Saturday night.

The Outsiders' first single for Muziek Express' Op-Art label is a double sided gem. The A-side, our SoTW, is called You Mistreat Me. (Yeah, I know, we usually go for the Flip-Side of singles, but not today kids). You Mistreat Me is one odd little song. Like so many Outsiders songs, You Mistreat Me seems to have been recorded live in the studio and without a break to tune up the instruments. (The fab-O flip side, Sun Going Down is waaaaay out of tune, but in a good way.)

You Mistreat Me starts with a heavily tremelo-effected guitar sputtering away as Splinter slides a barre chord up and down the neck, falling loosely into a two chord riff. Bassist Appie Ramers (most awesome name ever!) gets some prime time with his hollow body bass running up and down the neck. And the late Wally Tax sings in his trademark melancholy style sounding as if he was too stoned to actually make an effort to muster a well earned tear in his eye. "Things you say ain't true. All you do is lie. You leave me all alone for too many hours. You Mistreat me and you make me lose my mind. Don't you know that I love you, why do you treat me so unkind?" Even his scream that introduces the guitar lead sounds as if he can't work up enough energy to put the Pop-Tarts down and get off the couch. Wally Tax clearly abides.

Sadly we may never know why this unnamed girl treated Wally so bad. Wally Tax passed away not too long ago in 2005 and with him, he took his sad little secret to the grave.

Song of the Week: Ike and Tina Turner - I Wanna Jump

Today we have a real foot stomper for you. It's the 1969 release on Minit Records from Ike and Tina Turner called I Wanna Jump. The number was composed by Ike and he plays some nasty guitar on this. Tina is...well, Tina. Superb in every way.

We like to think of this song as a companion piece to a previous SoTW for The Toggery Five and their song, I'm Gonna Jump. Where Ike has an idea of what he wants to do (which is, by the way, to jump), The Toggery Five plan to execute the jumping. 

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

Monday, May 20, 2013

R.I.P. Ray Manzarek of The Doors -- The Crystal Ship

The day after we celebrate Pete Townshend's 68th birthday, we sadly mourn the loss of Ray Manzarek, keyboardist for The Doors. Ray was 74.

In the recent past, we featured Riders On The Storm, which features Ray in perfect form. Check it out. 

We'll see you on the flip-side, Ray.


In 1968, The Who were at a crossroads. The four lads were well known in England but considered a definite second class to the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. In the U.S., they were still an enigma to the masses. The year prior they had released one of the most successfully ambitious and entertaining records to ever hit the bins, the quasi-concept album, The Who Sell Out. But nobody in the U.S. bought it and few in the UK appreciated the album beyond the one single to come from the album, I Can See For Miles. (it didn't help that the theme of the album was an attack on state-run radio). For a very frustrated Who, success on the charts was as elusive as modesty is for Kim Kardashian. But their live performances were winning fans over one at a time. One was John Phillips of the Mamas and Papas who picked The Who to perform at the Monterey Pop Festival for the final night. Their blitzkrieg performance served not so much as a coming out party in the US, but more as a full frontal assault. After the American musicians and critics regained their hearing they asked, "who was that and what's next?"

The pressure was on and Pete Townshend, like a dog with his first taste of blood, began trying to expand on his nascent steps of writing a single thematic for an entire album. The result was 1969's hugely ambitious, Tommy, the so-called rock opera. This was not about flowers in your hair, love, and peace. This was about murder, pedophilia, false messiahs and the life affirming power of music. This self-produced album, with french horns and copious amounts of acoustic guitars was quiet, dark and brooding. This album effectively ripped the band-aid off of Pete Townshend's fragile psyche and exposed performances that are as gentle and complex as the subject matter is troubling and complex.

On the first side of the four sided album is a humble little song that introduces us to the central plot of Tommy. The song is called 1921 and it is our Song of the Week. Even certified Who fans might have to pause to recall this song...and it certainly won't ever make any greatest hits double disc. The Who often dropped it from their live performances of Tommy. But that is part of the beauty of this song. 1921 is one of those many intricate Pete Townshend songs in which he lays his soul out for all to see. But as he had done before with deeply personal songs (think Sell Out's Sunrise), the song is obscured from the listener with its shy demeanor and elliptical lyrics.

Let's linger over those elliptical lyrics for a second. As mentioned earlier, they tell our central story through which the rest of the album must be understood. But in typical Townshend fashion, he forces the listener to work for it with a constant sleight of hand. His central tool in this musical prestidigitation is the constant switching of narrator.

(Allow me to pause and give a Cliff's Notes version of the scant few lines contained in the six minutes of sublime music which precede 1921 on the album). Mr. and Mrs. Walker are a newly married British couple in love. Captain Walker soon heads off to do his duty for the Empire at the outbreak of World War I. In the father's absence, his son, Tommy, is born. Around this time Mrs. Walker is told that Mr. Walker has gone missing with a number of men, and that he is presumed dead.

It is at this point that we pick up our song sung from many different perspectives, all of which, except one, are sung by Townshend at his most vulnerable. It's New Year's eve and Mrs. Walker has found a potential new father for her young child. Mrs. Walker's unnamed lover opens the song (verse 1; PT) as he whispers words of proposal in the mother's ear while making love. Presently Captain Walker miraculously (and mysteriously) returns home to find his wife entwined with the lover. An enraged Captain Walker confronts the lovers (verse 2, PT) and, in one of Townshend's most susceptible vocal performances, turns to the wife and says "I had no reason to be over-optimistic, but somehow when you smiled I could brave bad weather." And with that the Captain violently kills the lover. Unbeknownst to him, his son (at least we think it is the Captain's son), witnesses the murder while looking through a mirror in the next room (we learn the particulars of this part later). And in verse 3, PT still singing, takes on the roll of the mother as she pleads "What about the boy, he saw it all"? Here is where things get interesting, both narratively and musically. Pete Townshend now plays the part of both mother and father as they turn to the juvenile Tommy and insist to him that he "didn't hear it, didn't see it, won't say nothing to no one ever in his life." Roger Daltrey, makes his debut as Tommy as he rebuts his parents and futilely argues against the orders ("I heard it", "I saw it"). Browbeaten, the young Tommy succumbs to his parents' wishes and resigns:  "I won't say nothing to know one...never in my life." And so it is, in this one verse with three narrators singing over each other, Tommy is psychologically programmed to be deaf, dumb and blind.

Mission accomplished, the Walker's turn their attention back to each other as the father now apes the words of the dead lover. Mrs. Walker, in turn, looks for forgiveness as her unsteady voice betrays the limits of her optimism. Townshend's bittersweet voice hits that perfect balance of sad and happy as the mother struggles to make sense of what is. A coda of distinctive chords (Eb - Absus4/Eb - Abm/Eb) rings out before we are represented with the central question of the album. A largely auto-biographical question, "what about the boy?" That is a question best answered by the rest of the album. 

Pete Townshend was only 24 years old when he wrote the groundbreaking 4th Who album that would shoot to the higher echelons of the charts on both sides of the Atlantic. The Who took their album on the road for nearly two years where it would transform from a soft, sensitive, introspective confession into a brash, bold, powerful statement of the healing powers of music. It was the end of one turbulent decade, and the beginning of another. It was the end of an innocently self-conscious mod band and the beginning of the most articulate pilgrims of rock. And it was the end of a commercially tenuous band, and the beginning of one of the most successful in history. It was The Who. Enjoy! Until next time, we'll see you on the Flip-Side.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Song Of The Week: The Wig/Wags -- I'm On My Way Down The Road

The other week we highlighted a GREAT garage record from the 5x5, a Magnolia, Arkansas band who released Tell Me What To Do in March of 1967 on Paula Records. Today we move about 45 miles up the road to the small town of Hope, Arkansas where we find The Wig/Wags making their onlyiest single for Sama Records. This record is listed as 1002, suggesting their was another release on Sama, but I can't find what it would be. Yep, we've now featured two 60s garage bands from the "Natural State", Arkansas. That's just how dedicated we are to scanning the globe for you to enjoy good music. 

I first heard this record on the excellent Pebbles Vol. 10 comp. More recently I found a very brief interview with the singer of The Wig/Wags, Steve Orak, which filled in a lot of information. That interview can be viewed at Turn Me On, Dead Man. From that interview we now know that Steve Orak was on rhythm and vocals, Johnson Perry was on lead, and two brothers, Gary and Paul Rinati were on drum and bass respectively. Not much more known. The songwriting credit goes to a cat named "Robinson", not sure who that is. Hopefully members of the band will find us and add a little more information to this much sought after record. And one has to wonder...Hope, Arkansas. 1966. Hope's own Bill Clinton would have been about 20 when this record came out. He must have gone to high school with the hep-cats. You think he ever saw The Wig/Wags in concert? Maybe sat in with them and added a little saxophone for their Motown covers? Since we've met him a few times, we can just email him and ask if he knows more about the band. 

Enjoy the 2:10 of adrenaline and, until next time, we'll see you On The Flip-Side!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Song of The Week: Chris Clark - Love's Gone Bad

Believe it or not, I'm actually featuring the A-Side of a record today! 

From August of 1966, we have blue eyed soul singer, Chris Clark on the Motown down-label, V.I.P., doing Love's Gone Bad. This Holland-Dozier-Holland composition has a real garage beat to it that just pounds away at the ears. In fact, Detroit garage band, The Underdogs, would record the same song for the same label in January of 1967. Largely the same sound. But Chris Clark's version is superior in our opinion. That's why she gets a feature at On The Flip-Side, and The Underdogs just get a toss away mention. Rumor has it that Chris was a personal favorite of Barry Gordy (wink, wink). 

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

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Song of the Week: Booker T and the M.G.'s -- Hip Hug-Her

Ben Fong-Torres, is this your copy of Booker T and The MG's Hip Hug-Her/Summertime which I picked up on San Pablo Avenue in Albany, California back in the 80s? If so, I'm willing to negotiate it's safe return (sans Stax sleeve...'cause that wasn't on it when I got it). I won't even say anything about the (should be) criminal activity of writing on a record. Let alone putting your name on it -- again -- with one of those heavy duty Dymo label makers. Your sister, or some other devilish character, probably kept snatching it from your room...compelling you to go to such drastic extremes to protect your Booker T collection.

Just let me know if you want this back.

Video Diary: The Small Faces -- Baby Please Don't Go

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Song of the Week: The Spencer Davis Group -- On The Green Light

The Spencer Davis Group is perhaps best known for being the launching pad for the very talented, multi-instrumentalist, teen prodigy, Stevie Winwood. Fair enough. The kid could play everything and had a voice that stood out from the crowd. Today's SoTW doesn't feature his voice, however. It's a Booker T. and The MG's styled instrumental written by Stevie Winwood. In the US, it was the Flip-Side of their second release of Somebody Help Me as it appeared on the United Artists label in June of 1967 (Somebody was also released on Atco a year prior with the flip-side Stevie's Blues, another instrumental). The song also appears on the band's US LP, I'm A Man.

Stevie is on that big sounding Hammond and Spencer Davis lays down one of the tastiest sounding guitar leads you will have the opportunity to hear. Muff Winwood on the Harmony H22 bass, and Pete York on drums.

Until next time, we'll see you On The Flip-Side!
Post inspired by and photo pinched from the blog, Magic Mac. Check it out. 

Friday, May 3, 2013

Song of the Week: The Who - Drowned and José Feliciano and Joe Cocker - Hitchcock Railway

Our final (of 5) days of looking at The Who songs and our removal of layers of the songs' onion to get a better understanding of their origin. We've looked at Young Man Blues, Zoot Suit, Daddy Rolling Stone and Anytime You Want Me. Each of those songs had origins dating to the earliest days of The Who. Today we jump to The Who's last great album, 1973's Quadrophenia.

One of the peppier songs on that album can be found deep on side three. The song is the wonderful Drowned. The dominant riff of the song was lifted from a song called Hitchcock Railway. Pete Townshend became familiar with the song when Joe Cocker and his band toured in support of The Who in 1969. Pete fell in love with the piano riff played by Chris Stainton and wrote a whole song around it. He was so enamored with it, Pete asked Chris to play on The Who's recording of Drowned, instead of the usual pianist, Nicky Hopkins, who had been on nearly every recording with The Who since 1964.

Chris Stainton:
Pete had watched the Joe Cocker set and seemed to be very impressed by the piano riff I was playing in Hitchcock Railway, which I lifted from José Feliciano's version. He never forgot it, and years later asked me to play in that style on the Quadrophenia album. (source: Won't Get Fooled Again: The Who From Lifehouse to Quadrophenia, Richie Unterberger. Jawbone Press, 2011. p. 213).
As author Richie Unterberger's research shows, "Townshend happily owned up to his influence in public" (ibid). Pete Townshend:
'We were just doing Drowned, which was using a Chris Stainton riff that I pinched from Hitchcock Railway, and we met a friend of his,' Townshend told Sounds. 'I said it would be really nice if he [Stainton] came down, and the next day he came down and we did that number, and he enjoyed himself so much that we used him on on a couple of other pieces.' (ibid)
Here is Chris Stainton playing Hitchcock Railway with Joe Cocker:
As Stainton references above, the song actually comes from José Feliciano who released the first version of Hitchcock Railway in October of 1968 for RCA Records. Here he is performing the number.
And, because we love you (strongly established already), here is Pete Townshend's demo for Drowned.  
Leave a comment below. Let us know what you think of all this. Until next time, we'll see you On The Flip-Side!

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Song of the Week: The Who and Garnet Mimms -- Anytime You Want Me

The Who perform Anytime You Want Me
 Garnet Mimms performs, Anytime You Want Me
On our first post in this week-long look at songs which The Who covered or were inspired by, we looked at the Flip-Side of The Who's third European single (Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere) which was their upbeat cover of Otis Blackwell's Daddy Rolling Stone. Today we look at one that is even more rare. The song is the Flip-Side of the American only release of their Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere. It wasn't released in any other country and preceded the release of their first album. The song is Anytime You Want Me by Philadelphia based soul stirrer, Garnet Mimms.

Garnett Mimms' original composition was released on the United Artist label in February of 1964. The Who's version of the song was released in the US on Decca on June 5, 1965, less than three months after they recorded the number. It's a pretty straight forward cover and gives real insight into The Who's early interests and skills. Interesting note, this single was delayed in it's release in the US as Decca returned the master tape to the UK claiming the tape was damaged and the music was warbled and muddied. It turns out they were talking about Pete's feedback frenzy in the middle of Anyway, Anyhow, Anywere. Ahhh, the joys of dealing with a predominantly C&W label!

I've included an A Cappella version of The Who's take on Anytime You Want Me just to show you how much I love you.
Until tomorrow, we'll see you On The Flip-Side!

P.S. If you dig this Garnet Mimms tune, check out this even better one right here

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Song of the Week: The Who (High Numbers) -- Zoot Suit and The Dynamics - Misery

We're back with the overly-hyped day three of our look at a few covers by The Who and their origins. Without further ado, I present to you...

In the earliest days of The Who, the band was largely generic and directionless. The Who's manager at that time, Pete Meaden, was trying to find a hook for The Who and endeavored to make the band "more mod." As a result he changed their name to The High Numbers (a "high number" being a term to refer to a person having a relatively high social rank in the movement) and took Pete Townshend to a mutual friend's house to listen to American soul and blues records to build out the band's repertoire. In the early Summer of 1964 the two Pete's settled on four songs they would lay down for their first recording session: Eddie Holland's Leavin' Here, Bo Diddley's Here 'Tis, Slim Harpo's Got Love If You Want It, and, perhaps the most obscure of these, The Dynamic's Misery. But Pete Meaden really wanted the records to be mod anthems. So, rather unscrupulously, Meaden rewrote the words to two of the songs in an effort to capitalize on the mod lifestyle. Got Love If You Want It became I'm The Face (the highest rank a Mod could achieve) and Misery became Zoot Suit.

Meaden claimed writing credit for both "originals". The record saw a tiny release on July 3, 1964. I believe about only 1000 were pressed on the Fontana label but without a recording contract. Meaden shopped it to record companies and the band sold or gave away the record to the mods who crammed into the Railway Hotel on the weekends to see their boys play. Not much came of it and it hardly sounds anything like the band who would go back into the studio a few months later to record Pete Townshend's first ever original, I Can't Explain.
The little known original song from which this number was pinched, as already noted, was called Misery performed by a Detroit group called The Dynamics. It was released in the US on Big Top records in October of '63. It even saw a release in the UK the next month when London records picked it up.

Back in 2010 we wrote an article on this record. Much to our pleasure, the original guitarist, Chris Bramlett, found the article and left us some nice comments, including information on the equipment he used. Please see that article here for more information. It says more than I need to in this space.

Disclosure note, I picked up the picture of the handwritten High Number's Zoot Suit from White Fang's fan page. A great resource run by one of the mods that inhabited that Railway Hotel in the Summer of '64. Note that the name The Who was crossed out on the label and replaced with The High Numbers!

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