Monday, 13 April 2009
♫ Dear all, welcome to another trawl around the half-price bargain bins of musical discussion that is ‘News, Views and Music’. As some of you may have noticed, we’re a teensy weensy bit late this week – sorry about that, it’s that darned cfs getting in my way again! To make up for it, we have for you this issue the first of a new semi-regular section of questions and answers, ready to help with all those musical queries that keep pressing on your mind. We’re hoping to make this a feature every 10 newsletters or so, depending on how many interesting questions you email in with (you can post them up on our guestbook, our forum or email them in to either firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com). Oh and other new for you, I’ve just been informed that the local library is closing down for refurbishment at the end of the month (I didn’t think I’d made that much mess!) so the date of publication might have to change (I can still get things posted up when I visit out IT technician Mike at the weekend…) And now, on with the news…
♫ Beatles News: Paul and Ringo really did perform together at the New York David Lynch Charity show on April 4th, as reported in an earlier issue – the first time the two Beatles have played together since the George Harrison tribute concert in 2002. Macca played a full set of his own material (including his Lennon tribute ‘Here Today’ – how come he ignored this lovely song for 20 years and now seems to like it so much he’s played it endlessly since its 2002 revival?!) Ringo then joined Paul for the last song of the concert – a performance of ‘With A Little Help From My Friends’. Ahh!
Anniversaries #1: Happy Ba-ba-ba-birthdays this week go to Spencer Dryden (drummer with the Jefferson Airplane 1966-70) who would have been 71 on April 7th, Julian Lennon (John Lennon’s eldest) who turns 46 on April 8th and Gene Parsons (multi-instrumentalist with The Byrds 1968-72) who turns 65 on April 9th . Events this week include: the official first day in the office at the Beatles’ ‘Apple’ headquarters in London (April 6th 1968), the date in 1962 when two r and b loving teenagers called Mick Jagger and Keith Richards first meet Brian Jones in his guise as bluesman ‘Elmo Lewis’ and agree to form a band (April 8th), the premier of Neil Young’s ‘shakey’ film ‘Journey Through The Past’ (April 8th 1973), the death of ‘fifth Beatle’ Stuart Sutcliffe after suffering a brain haemorrhage aged 21 – an event that had huge ramifications for the bands’ music (April 10th 1962) and eight years later McCartney announces that the Beatles are to break up (well that’s what’s gone down in history anyway, he actually says that he can’t see a time in the near future when the four will play together again as part of a questionnaire released with copies of his first album ‘McCartney’ out on April 10th 1970) and finally April 12th saw the premier of the film ‘That’ll Be The Day’ starring Ringo as a teddy boy and various members of the Who backing Billy Fury (1973).
Anniversaries #2: Sorry for having to add another week on here, but anyway here it is – hoppy easter bunny birthdays this week go to AAA luminaries and visionaries Jack Casady (bassist with Jefferson Airplane 1965-72) who turns 65 on April 13th and Billy Kreutzmann (drummer with the Grateful Dead 1965-93) who turns 63 on April 17th . Anniversaries of events this week include: The Beatles record Help! on April 13th 1965, Pete Townshend performs his first ever solo concert at London’s Roundhouse on April 14th 1974, the Rolling Stones release two different LPs on April 15th ten years apart in 1966 and 1976 – ‘Aftermath’ and ‘Black and Blue’ respectively, British viewers get to see the very weird TV special ‘James Paul McCartney’ on April 16th 1973– screened as part of a deal with publisher Lew Grade to drop a publishing dispute arguing that Paul’s wife Linda couldn’t possibly have had a hand in writing some of the ex-Beatles’ biggest songs, Janis Joplin’s posthumous album ‘Pearl’ becomes a runaway success in the charts after its release on April 17th 1971 and finally The Cavern Club is sold on April 18th 1966 after gradually falling revenue.
♫ And now the latest in our top fives – the five best pre-Beatles/Beach Boys rock and roll songs and which AAA artists covered them.
5) Well…Alright (originally by Buddy Holly; covered by – gasp – no one!) Why did no one cover this forgotten gem of a song, which shows the roots of Merseybeat era pop far more successfully than more famous Buddy Holly classics like ‘Peggy Sue’ and ‘That’ll Be The Day’? Amazingly the Hollies left it off their whole album of Holly covers both obvious and unusual (‘Hollies Sing Holly’, 1980) despite the factthat it would have fitted their style quite nicely. Stripping the crickets down to a trio, Buddy turns in a deeper and more serious vocal than usual, adding his menacing vocal to one of the first true rock and roll (as opposed to ‘skiffle’) songs recorded with acoustic rather than electric guitars. The addition of a cowbell every half beat in the bar makes the whole thing sound like the missing link between thye sounds of the 50s and 60s, a sound aped by several Buddy Holly fans including Lennon and McCartney, The Hollies and The Kinks.
4) Louie Louie (originally by the Kingsmen; covered by The Beach Boys – ‘Shut Down Volume Two’ and The Kinks – ‘Kinksize Sessions EP’, available on CD as bonus track on ‘The Kinks’). This track used to be one of the most famous rock and roll records of all time, played by every band starting out in honour of its rebellious drawl and simple chugging chords. But where did all those people go? Nobody seems to remember this song anymore, possibly because – shamefully – of these two rather poor AAA cover versions which are now far more famous than the real thing. The Beach Boys version features a promising arrangement caught adrift on a sea of tiredness (this was the period when the fivesome were making five albums a year – and it shows on ‘Shut Down’ more than most of their mid-60s LPs) and the curious idea that listeners might actually want to hear the words loud and clear. The Kinks go back to re-creating this song’s slightly-out-of-earshot leering mode, but do it courtesy of some of the worst attempts at double-tracking in recorded history (it took a good couple of years for Ray Davies to learn the knack of doubling his parts successfully). Neither version quite recaptures the menace of the Kingsmen’s original, whose sneer and insistent beat inspired everything from Merseybeat to punk (it was even banned for ‘suggestive lyrics’ in some states of America, even though a study of these same lyrics reveals it all to be just gibberish).
3) Fortune Teller (written by Benny Spellman; covered by The Rolling Stones – ‘Got Live! If You Want It’, The Hollies – ‘The Hollies’ and The Who – Live At Leeds’ (deluxe edition) ). History has forgotten who Benny Spellmen as the original version of this song has practically disappeared without trace, but it became a staple of many bands’ line-ups during the 60s. A comedy tale of a teenager looking for his perfect partner who in desperation goes to see a fortune teller – only to realise later that it’s the very fortune teller who makes hi heart a flutter, this is one of the first genuinely funny rock and roll songs (apart from those written by Chuck Berry, anyway). It’s not just the lyrics that make this song the enjoyable little escapade it is, however – the rhythmic see-sawing melody line and mixture of on and off beats made it one of those songs that bands could take in pretty much any direction. And they did. The Stones version – for some reason abandoned as their second single, left in a vault for two years and then overdubbed with crowd noises so it could appear ‘live’ – is one of the bands’ best early covers, menacing and ungrammatical in true Stones style (‘I’m not passion with the girls I know’; generally speaking they’re better at doing blues covers than rock and roll in their early days, although their Bo Diddley songs are an exception to that). The Hollies coat the song in blissful harmonies and take the song at a rattling pace while letting drummer Bobby Elliott work his way up and down his kit, exploring every avenue while looking for love. The Who go in quite a different way, slowing the song down to a crawl for the first half of the song before letting it erupt into a fire of self-pity and anger over the narrator’s love life. All three versions are superb, showing what a great and adaptable little song this is.
2) Shakin’ All Over (originally by Johnny Kidd and the Pirates; covered by the Swinging Blue Jeans and The Who – ‘Live At
Leeds’). One of the noisiest of all 19560s songs, this was the British song that broke the dichotomy of the American rock and rollers and showed that England wasn’t all clean-cut Cliff Richards and Tommy Steeles With pklenty of space for rhythm guitar riffing, electric guitar soloing, drum breaks and bubbling bass lines, this is another song that marked the way forward for bands of the early 60s. The Who turn in a typically energetic and fierce version on their superlative Live At Leeds album, but it’s the largely forgotten group the Swinging Blue Jeans who made perhaps the definitive 60s version of this track. Crystal-clear production, relentless drumming, classic vocals – this version has it all.
1) Too Much Monkey Business (originally by Chuck Berry; covered by the Beatles – ‘At The BBC’, The Kinks – ‘The Kinks’ and The Hollies – studio version ‘The Hollies’/ live version ‘Long Road Home’ box set). ‘Same thing every day, get up go to school, no need for arguing my objections over-ruled, ahh!’ This is just one of six verses hollered at a break neck speed on perhaps the ultimate pre-Beatles rebel song, one of the best Chuck Berry records around. Hemmed in at school, at work, at home, in the army, life for the teenage rebel in the song is hard – but he finds a certain kind of satisfaction in being kicked out of every one in turn for monkeying around. The Hollies sweetened their version with stunning harmonies but made the rhythm section pounce even morer than on the original, while swapping lead vocals between their three singers Clarke, Hicks and Nash. (Check out the live version, not available until the 2003 box set, which demonstrates the universality of this song by suddenly leaping sideways into lots of other songs, including the Beatles’ ‘I Feel Fine’ and the Lovin’ Spoonful’s ‘Daydream’). The Beatles choose to speed up the tempo, with Lennon delivering one of his best ever lead vocals on a version that remains one of the fab four’s most potent (and forgotten) rockers. Whichever way you do it, this song is a classic!
Well that’s nearly it for another week. Just one final word before we go, a though from Philosophy Phil – ‘the best cure for insomnia is…a good night’s sleep’. Yes, thankyou for that wonderful thought, we’ll see you next week! Keep rocking!