Friday, 31 July 2009

News, Views and Music Issue 38 (Top Five): AAA Band Arguments

And now for this week’s top five: Now I don’t want to have an argument about this but when you get several talented people together in the same room, all vying for ideas under intense pressure, even groups as wonderful as the AAA ones can quickly find things getting out of hand. So here is a quick run down of the five biggest AAA ‘arguments’ currently available on record (although it’s worth pointing out that one of these is entirely musical and one of these is entirely false – more on that later – and shock horror, CSNY aren’t one of them!)

5) The Kinks ‘Hatred’ (‘Phobia’, 1993): Fittingly, for a loose concept album about how all of us have something irrational holding us back from greatness, The Kinks end their illustrious catalogue with a song about the falling out between the Davies brothers. The row on record here between Ray and Dave is deliberately over the top but both brothers admit there’s more of a grain to truth to lyrics like ‘You hate me and I hate you so at least we understand each other’ (even though Ray later claimed it was written as a ‘duet for a two-headed monster’ for a musical he was writing, he was fooling nobody with where he got his inspiration). The brothers reportedly had a big fight over the fact that Ray wrote it solo after promising Dave a co-write – so, not much acting going on that day. Classic line: ‘Hatred is the only thing that lasts forever but hatred is the only thing that keeps us together’

4) The Beach Boys ‘Cassius Love vs Sonny Wilson’ (‘Shut Down Volume Two’, 1964): Once again, we pity the Beach Boys. Delivering seven records a year to Capitol Records was never going to be easy so to lessen the burden all their pre-Pet Sounds albums contain at least one non-musical what-the-hell-is-going-on-number. This is failed attempt number five – a mock studio argument between Mike Love and Brian Wilson about who has the worst voice as their bemused fellow Beach Boys pretend that they’re concerned but in truth sound like they want to wash their hands of the whole affair. If stories are to be believed the real arguments were a lot less ‘pally’ than this one, but then that’s what you get for working with your brothers and cousins – at least there were only two of the Davies clan working together. The title, by the way, refers to a famous boxing match of the time that was about to take place – Cassius Clay is, of course, better known as Muhammed Ali, but the Beach Boys never actually resort to fisticuffs on this curious track. Gee, you can just hear what manager-dad Murray Wilson said when he played back the tapes for this track. Classic line: ‘At least I don’t sound like Mickey Mouse on helium!’

3) The Hollies ‘Yes I Will (I’ll Be True To You’) (‘At Abbey Road Volume One’, recorded 1965 released 1999): You can hear on this session recording the moment when childhood friends since the age of five Allan Clarke and Graham Nash start thinking about parting company. The band’s all cued in for yet another go at this song’s complicated harmonies when Clarkey calls for his microphone to be changed. Nash is fed up and wants to know why he didn’t think of that earlier and then, after 10 seconds of what seems to be heading into a blazing row is extinguished as the pair plus Tony Hicks rush headlong into some of the most exquisite harmonies on record. Sadly the tape doesn’t run to what the pair said to each other after the take but it’s perhaps no coincidence that this warm, loving ballad was recorded just two years before the pair’s big split. Classic Line: ‘So sit on a chair!’ ‘But where’s a chair?!’

2) John Lennon and Phil Spector ‘Conversation’ parts 1-3 (‘Lennon Anthology’, recorded 1974, released 2000): Two of the most influential and – it has to be said – frightening men ever to be in the same studio at the same time met for the third time during Lennon’s ill-fated first attempt at his ‘Rock And Roll’ LP. Shortly before running off with the tapes, legendary producer Phil Spector tries his best to keep control of the proceedings despite heckles and interruptions from a bunch of drunken musicians and a star who wants the last word as badly as he does. For my money, these three tracks are the highlight of the Lennon Anthology set, with Spector getting gradually wound up to fever pitch as the pair of musicians banter praise, insults and general annoyance at the world in general. You won’t be surprised that the pair never actually finished this record (Lennon re-recorded most of it himself the following year), although amazingly they did finish a song together – the gorgeous ‘Here We Go Again’, shelved until Lennon’s posthumous ‘Menlove Avenue’ album. The song the pair are working on, by the way, is ‘Just Because’, a song that will end up closing the album. Amazingly, it does get finished. Classic line: Spector: ‘What are you going to do? Play jazz with Jethro Tull at the Roxy? Or Elton John probably’ Lennon: ‘I refute – Elton’s a good friend of mine’ ‘Well, good – he’s got the same name as you only he spells it at the back and you spell it at front’ ‘But Elton’s going to die young – I’m going to be a 90-year-old guru’ ‘I make music – you make gurus – let’s go’ ‘Be careful Phil ‘cause I’m going to write your history...’

1) The Byrds ‘Hidden Track on Notorious Byrd Brothers’ (1968, re-released 2006): When The Byrds started their fifth album they were a quartet. When gthey finished they were a duo. Here’s why: in the most jaw-dropping tape since the infamous bootleg by the Troggs you can hear exactly why the band broke up. The group are trying to record David Crosby’s song ‘Dolphin’s Smile’ (as so often happens on this list,it’s one of the lightest, fluffiest, peace-loving songs he ever wrote). But drummer Michael Clarke won’t play ball – you can tell he hates this song and every time his fellow Byrds start asking him to play with a bit more, well, skill he gets crosser and crosser and less likely to comply. To be fair, Crosby does his best to control his temper, telling Clarke how great he can play most of the time which is why Cros knows he’s just goofing off this time around and producer Terry Melcher does his best to ease the whole situation from the control room, sounding as if it’s the third time today the band have self-destructed in his face. To be fair, Clarke just sounds as if he’s having an off day and wants to be left alone, not made to play music that’s 180 degrees away from what the Byrds started with. But somehow the argument inevitably escalates anyway – this is four very different people heading out in four very different directions. It’s a wonder this record got made at all. Classic line: it’s a close match between ‘How do you want me to play it again?’ ‘Try playing right!’ and the highly sympathetic ‘Oh poor baby – feeling misunderstood now are you?, ahhh poor diddums’.

Well, that’s all for another week – don’t start arguing with us if you’re missing out on what you want to see in ‘news and views’, drop us a line instead and we’ll see what we can do. Ciao for now!


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