Monday, September 30, 2013

Song of the Week: The Elois - By My Side

Back for more Aussie love. Today we feature this writer's favorite Aussie Beat song ever.

A friend of mine once asked why I collected 45s more aggressively than I collected LPs. It was a fair enough question to be posed in the '80s when bands made "albums". This week's Song of the Week is my two minute and 5 second answer.

Many, many great records of the late '50s and early '60s were made by local bands that produced only one or two 45s. These bands didn't make LPs. Heck, many of them didn't even have real record labels let alone distribution deals. These records might be pressed locally in lots of 250, 500, or maybe as many as 1,000, if the bass player had a daddy who owned a local car dealership and thus had some money. The records were then often sold to their fellow high school classmates by the band themselves at their weekend Battle of the Band shows. Or maybe that supportive dad might give a disc away with each new car purchased. Most sat unclaimed in a box in dad's garage where the band practiced on Saturday afternoon and stashed some warm beer behind the drill bits.
One of the great things about this do-it-yourself recording culture was that it removed the record executives (aka, "the weenies") from the mix. These bands didn't realistically think about making it big or touring with the Beatles. They went in to the studio (usually a radio station) with one thing on their mind: "If we cut a real good record we might just get to second base with those girls from the next town. You know, the ones who drive over here in that black Lincoln Continental and are always sneaking Schlitz into the dances." As you might imagine, these bands recorded whatever they wanted without any editorial control from the weenies. More often than not the results were pretty bad.  The A-side of the single often sucked raw eggs as it was all too often some lame cover of a slow ballad that maybe a band like Gerry and the Pacemakers just had a hit with. It's the song that got all the girls slow dancing at the hop. And the drummer's mom always liked that song most as they would rehearse in the uninsulated garage. But every once in a while, squirreled away on the flip-side, was some bizarre creation of a song the band wrote just last week. You know, "the one that is kinda like that Yardbirds record with all that feedback in it." These little creations were often enough brilliant. A depraved record that can only come out of the collective minds of uncontrolled teenagers with one thing on their mind.

This week we explore one of these one-shot local bands and celebrate their own depraved composition. The band is from the small town of Ballarat in Victoria, Australia (about a 90 minute drive from Melbourne). The short-haired, well dressed lads call themselves The Elois after the "tranquil sunshine people" from H.G. Wells' Time Machine. Some time in 1966 our lads travel to the big city of Melbourne and cut their one and only record at the Bill Armstrong Studio. The A-side is a Who inspired cover of Bo Diddley's oft-covered I'm A Man. It's okay, but it's been done. But the real gem was to be found on the flip-side. It's a self-penned explosion of rage detailing a young man's uncontrollable hormonal yearnings for the satisfaction of a young woman. It's the song mom said she didn't like. The one the band wouldn't rehearse if mom was in the house baking cookies. The boys from Ballarat call it By My Side, and, I do not say this lightly, it is one of the greatest songs ever dedicated to wax. Seriously.

The song stands in stark contrast to the image of the clean-cut, small town quartet. Opening with a shot of adrenaline-infused feedback in the key of E, the drummer starts his cymbal intro with a rapid 4/4 beat. The front and center bass enters with a slide from B up the neck until it lands into a killer riff in the key of E. The guitar joins the bassist in the machine-gun riff and together they modify the riff as quick as it starts. The singer menacingly growls out: "Said I need you girl by my side" as the backup singers presage various aspects of the repeated lyrics. Then something funny happens at just :32 into the song. The wicked little 4/4 beat ends as quickly as it began. The drummer drops the band into a catchy bomp-chee-----bomp-bomp-chee 2/4 beat. At this point you can literally hear the drum kit squeak under the pounding it takes from the drummer. The bass adds a loping "vroom" of a slide that morphs just as quickly into a nice little walk. The guitarist falls back as he punctuates the instrumentation. And then our primordial singer and the possessed backup singers return with lyrics of bravado as they let us know that their girls keeps them satisfied. And then, just as quick as we went into a 2/4, without warning we are back into a 4/4 beat as the guitarist launches into a feedback heavy lead that would make even Jeff Beck and Pete Townshend envious. Our singer barks out his final words to his muse, "I can't get enough of you girl." And then, just like the frustrated teenager himself, only a little more than two minutes after the romance starts, it's over. Just like that. The only thing you can do is sneak out for a smoke, take a few minutes and then start it all over again.

Our boys would soon return to the small town of Ballarat Shepperton and try to sell their record. They probably told mom not to listen to the flip-side. Truth be told, most people didn't hear either side of the record and the group soon disbanded to go about their lives in University or in the military. Their recording didn't get a breath of attention until 1980 when a Melbourne record collector compiled a bunch of his favorite forgotten singles from unheralded local bands dating between 1964-1967 and released them on an album called Ugly Things. I picked that record up at a Tower records in San Francisco circa 1983. Somewhere towards the middle of side one was this 125 second gem. I hope you enjoy it 1/1000th as much as I do.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Song Of The Week: The Masters Apprentices - Hot Gully Wind

Day five of crispy Aussie beat goodness. 

The Masters Apprentices hailed from the South Australia city of Adelaide. Like many other bands in their day, they would ultimately relocate to Melbourne to be where the action is. The Masters were far more than your typical one-hit wonder. They put out single after single of high quality work for Astor Records: Undecided, Buried & Dead, Elevator Driver, War Or Hands of Time. And they put out this one, Hot Gully Wind, which appeared on their excellent 1967 debut album. 

Hot Gully Wind has one of those bitchin' bass lines that always puts me in a good groove. It also has some rather curious lyrics that I don't think I have ever quite figured out. 
My baby's been and gone like a hot gully wind
Leaving' on a noon train with her brother Jim
Here I stand alone like a backwards young tree
Hanging out my branches trying to dry my brown leaves
And then it has that guitar riff that owes a lot to a Chuck Berry lead riff slowed down and put over a a nice stutter-rhythm. It's a real gem.

The Masters, who are my fave Aussie band but have my least favorite name of any Aussie band, were comprised of Jim Keays on vocals, Mick Bower on rhythm guitar, Rick Morrison on Lead, Gavin Webb on bass and Brian Vaughton on drums.
Until next time, we'll see you On The Flip-Side!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Song of the Week: The Moods - Rum Drunk

Day four of our Down Under journey takes us to the hep-cat town of Melbourne, Australia. In 1966, five high school lads who called themselves The Moods recorded a composition from their guitarist, John Livi. The song is the sublime Rum Drunk. While the number may not share the manic punk angst of yesterday's song, the frantic pounding of By My Side or the undeniable toe-tapping of Friday On My Mind, I'll put this number squarely in the top 5 of all Aussie Beat songs. That's how much I love this song with it's incessant Duane Eddy guitar riff, mouse vocals and generous dose of reverb. 

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

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Song of the Week: The Bluebeats - Social End Product

Day three of our down under series has us crossing the Tasman Sea to Auckland, New Zealand. It was there that The Bluestars -- John Harris, Rick Van Bockhoven, Murray Savidan and Jim Crowley -- released their own fist-waving-in-the-air anthem, Social End Product, in September of 1966. This barn burner is tough to find these days but makes it's way on to numerous comps.

John Harris sings and plays lead guitar on this number he penned about his pent-up frustrations with an oppressive culture. Let's turn to the lyrics of Social End Product for some guidance:
I carry my girl through the mean city streets
I change up my mind with everya-aweek
I don't stand for the dream
In a house where traditions mean... 
I've been labeled as an angry young man
Because I don't fit into the master plan
Under society's microscope
I look funny but it's no joke. 
I'm a social end product so don't blame me
I'm a social end product of society
It's not my fault that I don't belong
It's the world around me that's gone all wrong 
Social end product, social end product, social end product, social end product 
How did you expect me to turn out?
Did you want me just a little boy scout?
Before you start to criticize me
Take a look and you will see 
See, see, see 
I'm a social end product so don't blame me
I'm a social end product of society
It's not my fault that I don't belong
It's the world around me that's gone all wrong 
Social end product, social end product, social end product, social end product 
Aaaah, how do you expect me to turn out?
I'm Just a little boy scout?
You try to criticize me
Dig the bassist mistake at 1:30 after "boy scout". What? You gotta problem with it? You can't blame Murray for the mistake. He's just a shhhhhocial end product of quick takes!

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

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Song of the Week: The Easybeats - The Shame Just Drained

Day two of our look at Aussie Beat has us spinning Australia's only international stars from the beat movement in the 60s, The Easybeats.

The Easybeats took the world by storm in November, 1966 after the quintet relocated to the UK and worked with American producer Shel Talmy. The release of their original number, Friday On My Mind, was so huge that it is largely the only thing The Easybeats are known for these days. But they did much more. The Easybeats' songwriters, guitarists Harry Vanda and George Young (the older brother of Malcolm and Angus of AC/DC fame) were very, very prolific. So prolific that they couldn't get their songs out fast enough.

Today we listen to a song that was recorded with Talmy at the controls in 1967, but failed to get released until 1977 when it was released on an odd and ends album of unreleased and hard to find songs. Today's SoTW, The Shame Just Drained, was one of those unreleased numbers. Beautifully written, beautifully produced, beautifully performed, it's amazing this never saw the light of day. The Shame Just Drained tells the story of a man who realizes, too late, that he had treated a woman badly. As he sees her, his shame drains the color from his face. Stevie Wright is NOT on vocals as this was only a demo. George Young is singing on this. Snowy Fleet on drums and Dick Diamonde on bass.

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

Monday, September 23, 2013

Song of the Week: The Purple Hearts - Of Hope and Dreams and Tombstones/I'm Gonna Try

Of Hopes and Dreams and Tombstones
I'm Gonna Try
It's Australia (and maybe New Zealand) week here at On The Flip-Side!

We'll start with The Purple Hearts who hailed from the provincial capital of Brisbane. The band was Mick Hadley, Fred Pickard, Adrian Redmond, Bob Dames and guitar wizard, Barry Lyde who went by the name Lobby Loyde. 

The Purple Hearts released their second single, Of Hopes and Dreams and Tombstones, on the Sunshine label in February of 1966. It's my favorite of their records, even though we don't get a hint of Loyde's prolific guitar work. The sparse arrangement works perfect for the subject matter. 

The Flip-Side, I Gonna Try, is rocking, but again leaves us wanting more from Loyde as we only hear him take off in the fade out.
Until next time, we'll see you On The Flip-Side!

Friday, September 20, 2013

Song of the Week: The Pretty Things - I Can Never Say

This is the third time we've featured The Pretty Things here at the best music spot on the web. The first instance was a feature on their song My Time. That post has some of the fewest hits in the history of this website. And by few, let me just say that if you took every person who hit on that post, you still couldn't field two baseball teams. Then we featured The Pretty Things doing Come See Me as part of our "Under The Covers" series. That one did better. Much better. We could field many, many baseball teams with that post. And even have enough people left over to serve hot dogs and popcorn.

Today we're back at it with one of The Pretty Things' lesser known tunes, I Can Never Say. In the United States it was The Flip-Side of two of their obscure singles: the April 1965 release of the radio unfriendly Honey, I Need and the Flip-Side of the July 1965 release of their cover of the Garnet Mimms and Solomon Burke standard, Cry To Me. Both singles were released on Fontana Records. I Can Never Say has a simple, but great shuffle to it as singer Phil May sings with a great raspy restraint. The song never takes off into anything else. Just that simple shuffle with a real understated feel. May's harmonica being the only lead instrument. Nice.
Until next time, we'll see you On The Flip-Side!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Song of the Week: The Birdwatchers - You Got It

The Birdwatchers hailed from Miami Tampa, Florida before relocating to Miami and recorded a number of singles on a handful of labels. They released You Got It, co-written by the keyboardist, Bobby Puccetti, for the local Scott Records in July of 1967. Sammy Hall does the heavy lifting on the vocals. 

Monday, September 16, 2013

Song of the Week: Irma Thomas - It's Raining

It's been a difficult week here at On The Flip-Side HQ in Boulder, Colorado. The rains have been relentless and the floods devastating. Today we have to tip our hat to nature and say "you win". Irma will be doing the hat tipping for us. Here is Irma Thomas performing It's Raining, the Flip-Side of an August, 1962 single she released for the Minit Records label out of New Orleans (that town knows something about rain, eh?). Written by a Neville Brother. 

Until next time, we'll either see you On The Flip-Side or on a life raft. Cheers and stay dry. 

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Song of the Week: Sonny Boy Williamson (ii) -- Peach Tree

We had to follow up our last post on the Sonny Boy Williamson (i) composition, Good Morning School Girl with a number from Sonny Boy Williamson (ii). Here the master of the blues harp performs his original composition, Peach Tree. The number was released posthumously on The Real Folk Blues album in 1965 for Chess Records. Somehow I don't think he is really singing about a tree that bears the fruit of Peach. Hmmm, what else could he be singing about that looks and feels like a peach? Think. Think. Think.

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

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Song of the Week: Sonny Boy Williamson (I) - Good Morning School Girl

In a recent post about Led Zeppelin stealing music from Sonny Boy Williamson (aka, Aleck Rice Miller),  I hinted to the fact that the Sonny Boy Williamson in question stole more than just a song or two. In fact he stole an entire identity.

Aleck Rice Miller took the name Sonny Boy Williamson in 1941 while performing on The King Biscuit Time radio show out of Helena, Arkansas. Apparently at the suggestion of the show's promoter, Max Moore. The idea was to capitalize on the established name of a harmonica pioneer who hadn't been seen in that part of the world for a number of years. A bit of a ghost legend. The problem was John Lee Curtis Williamson, known by the nickname Sonny Boy, was alive and well and living up in Chicago. So it was, two Sonny Boy Williamson's, one a Tennessee native living in Chicago, and another, from Mississippi, were performing around the country at the same time. One primarily in the North. The other predominantly playing in the South. 

Today we listen to the original Sonny Boy Williamson perform his 1937 original composition for Bluebird records, Good Morning School Girl. The song became a staple in the blues world. Muddy Waters performed it, Chuck Berry performed it. The Yardbirds performed a variation on it, The Grateful Dead, John Lee Hooker, Rod Stewart, Van Morrison. Hell, you get the idea. Sonny Boy Williamson (ii) even covered it. 
Enjoy, until next time, we'll see you On The Flip-Side!

Monday, September 9, 2013

Song of the Week: Agent Orange - Bloodstains and No Such Thing

No Such Thing
Take three teens from Southern California who love Dick Dale. Add in some love for The Jam. Throw in some X and mix it with skate culture and you get the debut single and mini-LP from Orange County California hardcore pioneers, Agent Orange. Their debut min-LP from 1981 (and their debut single from 1980) is so perfect I couldn't pick what song to feature. I couldn't even pick two! So I had someone else pick at random.

The result is Bloodstains from 1980 and No Such Thing from 1981. 

The band was Mike Palm on vocals and guitar, James Levesque on bass and Scott Miller on drums. 
Until next time, we'll see you On The Flip-Side!

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Song of the Week: Bill Haley & His Comets - Razzle-Dazzle

Whack-a-doo-a-whack-a-doo! Bill Haley is one of the most influential figures in rock-n-roll history. But he doesn't seem to make it onto the Mt. Rockmore carvings like Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry and Buddy Holly. Perhaps it was his relatively senior age of 30 when he recorded Rock Around The Clock, or his tartan dinner jacket, his comb-over, or his relatively tame demeanor. One thing is for sure: Bill Haley was the first caucasian musician to consciously record a rock-n-roll record with his 1953 recording of his original tune, Crazy, Man, Crazy. 1953! Stop and think about that. 1953. His groundbreaking recording of Rock Around The Clock came out the next year in 1954.

Today we take a listen to his 1955 recording of a Charles Calhoun penned number called Razzle Dazzle. It's a swinging little number with some beautifully ridiculous back-up vocals (whack-a-doo-a-whack-a-doo). One of the reasons this is on the top 3 list of my favorite Bill Haley recordings is the stunning guitar work from lead guitarist, Franny Beecher. Do not overlook this great jazz influenced guitar work. Holy crow that guy could play. But more than just play, Beecher successfully lifts the song up from a good number to a great number. And just as important is the top-notch production on the recording. Every instrument is distinct and clear and nicely balanced. It may be hard to hear on crappy little lap-top speakers, but pay particular attention to the slap bass work of Al Rex Marshall Lytle. It is more clear and distinct than most recordings of a bass for another 10+ years when people like Charles Mingus would make recording the bass their hallmark.
That's all I have to say this week. Have a good one and also enjoy the video below of Bill Haley and His Comets performing Razzle Dazzle. Don't Go out there, they'll crucify you!
Until next time, we'll see you On The Flip-Side!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Song of the Week: The Unrelated Segments - Where You Gonna Go?/It's Gonna Rain

Where You Gonna Go?
It's Gonna Rain
The Unrelated Segments made three singles and they all kick some serious booty. They sound a little different than the work of other garage bands of their day, a little more ambitious, a little more polished, a little more accomplished, a little more serious.

The band was formed in Taylor, Michigan, a suburb of Detroit, in late 1966. The band was Ron Stults on vocals, Rory Mack on lead guitar, Barry Van Engelen on bass, John Torok on rhythm guitar and Andy Angellotti on drums. Before they had even a single concert, only two weeks after their first jam session, the High School boys went into the studio to record their first record in early 1967, Story Of My Life/It's Not Fair, released on Hannah-Barbera Records. Both numbers written by Rory Mack and Ron Stults. 

Today, we're going to listen to their second single, Where You Gonna Go?/It's Gonna Rain as released on Liberty Records in September of 1967. Both numbers, again, written by Mack and Stults.

Where You Gonna Go? opens with a crazy cool guitar riff that sounds like it might be run through a Leslie speaker. Van Engelen then joins the fray with some brilliant bass work before the creaking sound of a flexi mic stand gives way to Stults who sings of the bleak reality of working all day for another man, smoking cigarettes just for something to do and falling further and further behind the American Dream. The ever so brief bridge at 1:30 is an unexpected gem that really lifts the song at just the right time. The relentless guitar riff now gives way to a swinging romp:
And you know you're selling out
And as anybody knows
They'll know it by your face
And know it by your clothes
It's Gonna Rain is even more bleak. A slow, somber number that, again, features a nice chord progression and stellar bass work from Van Engelen. It's a hell of a song to be featured on a Flip-Side. 
Until next time, we'll see you On The Flip-Side!