In-depth reviews of classic or neglected albums, mainly from the 1960s and 70s, plus a weekly newsletter featuring all the latest news, views and music. Artists covered include Beach Boys, Beatles, Belle and Sebastian, Buffalo Springfield, Byrds, Crosby Stills and Nash, Dire Straits, Grateful Dead, Hollies, Jefferson Airplane/Starship, Kinks, Nils Lofgren, Monkees, Moody Blues, Pink Floyd, Rolling Stones, Searchers, Simon and Garfunkel, Small Faces, 10cc, The Who and Neil Young.
Monday, 14 November 2016
Otis Redding: Surviving TV Footage: 1965-1967 Plus Unreleased Recordings
Otis Redding's larger than life personality was always hard to contain on something as small as a mere record - to be honest the television cameras struggle to hold it all in too. However the TV appearances are still essential, like rarely before in these AAA books; the closest we've got to being there to actually see Otis in concert for those of us born past December 1967. The sad news is how little there is: Otis' only had three years to make his mark in and while these eleven clips represent an impressive work-rate for those years they pale compared to the filmed-every=other-week antics of The Beatles and Neil Young et al. As usual, this sadly isn't a complete list of what Otis performed anyway, with television stations ignorant over how important their programmes would appear to future generations and so many of Otis' great shows were lost to the ether for reasons of space or the prohibitive costs of repeat fees (including a legendary appearance at the Whiskey-A-Go-Go in 1966 - at least judging by my research, do get in touch if you know of something that isn't listed here!) Like Otis' music, this list feels frustratingly half-finished, the singer building to a real peak of creativity in his final year cut short far too soon. The good news is that Otis is better represented on DVD than most, with a whole sudden splurge of videos and DVDs dedicated to the gentle soul giant in the 1990s and 00s. For what might well be the first time ever on this list everything except the first entry is available on something - usually the 'Dreams To Remember' DVD from 2007 - but we'll let you know what and where when the time comes. Otis' estate (effectively his wife Zelda) have done a good job at keeping Redding's name alive since his death with respectful spaces between the material made available to fans.
As usual a few caveats apply. This is a list of surviving footage so we haven't reviewed something that can't be seen - even if Otis' fans remember it really well from the 1960s. We've stuck with Otis' own shows rather than including all the Booker T and the MGs shows, even when Redding's backing band played their own solo spot at the start of a gig - most of them consist of their big hit song 'Green Onion's anyway! Most of the list featured here seems to consist of concerts - we don't always include these in our AAA books as they weren't always filmed for broadcast and most of our artists already have half a book's worth of TV clips to discuss anyway, but it seemed churlish to leave some of these out when Otis' list was so short in the first place. It's worth pointing out, though, that we've stuck to professionally recorded gigs rather than any home-made footage clearly recorded by fans (though again there's far less material of that sort around than for most of our other bands anyway - did soul not have as many bootleggers as rock and roll in the 1960s? There's masses for Janis Joplin, for instance, whose career spanned a similar era). Oh and the dates are as vague as the year here - Otis was one of those performers who tended to keep old favourites in the setlist long after he was plugging an album so it's harder to work out than most and as far as I know there's never been a definitive guide to Otis dates and appearances. For the most part the ordering is guesswork, based when something came out and the assumption that Otis' career trajectory would have stayed in America for the most part of 1966 before coming over to Europe later on. There is also no way in a million billion zillion years that I will allow Kanye West and Jay Z's atrocious tribute song 'Otis' through onto the list, even if it did have a music video (I leave it up to you and your nervous system whether it's worth the risk of tracking down on Youtube too - let's just say it's infinitesimally less awful than their usual work without making me think that either of them actually, you know, understood Otis and his music or had even heard of him before their manager had the suggestion to pay tribute).
As we've said, there's actually little here you can't find on various DVD sets if you're prepared to search around a bit and pay a little bit extra for the rarer 1990s sets. However, it would be a shame to change the habit of a lifetime (well, twenty-two books as it is now) so we can also point you towards our patent-pending high-flying sadly mr pitifully-short AAA playlist which is now up online at the address (https://www.youtube.com/user/AlansArchives) - unless you're reading thus on our website in which case the videos are at the top of the screen and you can watch while you read, assuming of course that you have two pairs of eyes to do this. Do be warned though: Youtube videos do come and go quicker than Spice Girls reunions so I can't always promise the videos will still be there (I'll do my best to keep the playlists up to date though, even if it means uploading everything myself!)
Well, the TV is sitting on the dock of the bay and I'd better rescue it before it falls in, so with no further ado let me introduce Mr O!...T!...I!...S!...R!...E!...D!...D!...I!...N!...G!!!! (as Otis was introduced night after night after night. No wonder he released an album named 'The Dictionary Of Soul' with all those spelling lessons!)
1) Shindig ('Pain In My Heart' possibly 'Mr Pitiful' 'Just One More Day' US TV 1965)
First up, a little bit of a mystery. No one seems quite sure what programme these three songs come from - or if indeed they come from the same programme at all (although Otis appears to be wearing the same clothes so it seems likely - or at least as likely as you can tell in black-and-white). We do know, though, that one of Otis' first TV shows was Shindig and this has the 'Shindig' feel about it (excellent production values but shaky camera work and a slight unease by the performers who've no doubt had to put up with some shtick before starting to play - the AAA TV lists are full of faces like the one Otis pulls here). Redding is on great form, though, dressed casually in a jumper and trying not to be put off by the rather lively audience behind him. Otis looks young and wiry here, like a boxer, though he's already singing his songs of trademark grief and misery. He really gets the giggles waiting to mime to his 'ummm-hmm' during the horn solo on 'Pain In My Heart' and grins his head off on 'Mr Pitiful' (erm, is that the right emotion there Otis?!) and dances a bit like the dad he already was even in this early era at aged twenty-four, while a table of other guests (Paul Revere and the Raiders?) try to click their fingers in rhythm - and clearly fail. The standout, though, is the rarer 'Just One More Day' which has Otis finding his 'style' as the cameras fade to night-time vision and he pours his heart out under a simple spotlight with a mimed performance that nails this lovely sleepy ballad. At least until the dancers rush back on and seem to re-enact the Heimlich manoeuvre in slow motion (Shindig really was weird sometimes, if indeed this is Shindig!) This is one of the few Otis shows where Booker T and the MGs don't appear (the show being mimed throughout) and a nervous Otis is clearly missing them, but he does just great all the same. All three tracks can be found on the 'Dreams To Remember' DVD.
2) The !!! Beat ('Mr Pitiful' 'Don't Mess With Cupid' 'Any Ole Way' 'My Lover's Prayer' 'Try A Little Tenderness' US TV 1966)
This memorably named show only lasted for half a year's worth of weekly performances across the key musical year of 1966 but it remains a well loved show - not least because it seems to have survived the raiders of the full vaults more or less intact and because it features some distinctive blocks marked with the '!!!' logo that rather stand out even in the experimental set dressing world of 1966. The show was an early one in colour - garishly so in places - and as such is our first chance to see Otis in technicolour. He plays with the show's house band (led by Clarence 'Gatemouth' Brown') which as far as I can tell marks the only time he sings live without Booker T's band. The two can't compare but this slightly looser, rockier combo do bring out a nicely raw performance from Otis across five fascinating songs. Two of them - 'Mr Pitiful' and 'Tenderness' - already feel like standards despite being introduced to Otis' set only a few months before, whilst 'Any Ole Way' is Otis' only live (well, mimed) performance of this lovely album track. The other two songs, though, are far rarer and odder: 'Don't Mess With Cupid' features Otis perched uncomfortably on a box while flapping his arms on a very funky song about love going wrong (and which inevitably rhymes 'cupid' with 'stupid') and 'My Lover's Prayer' features Otis singing live on a brilliantly dramatic ballad marred only by some clumsy drumming. Both songs were only released on record years later, after the singer's death. All in all it's a good show with less audience distractions and Otis looking and sounding much more like the later self we all know. All four songs appear on 'Dreams To Remember'.
3) Ready Steady Go! #1 ('Satisfaction' 'My Girl' 'Respect' 'Pain In My Heart' 'Can't Turn You Loose' 'Shake' 'Land Of 1000 Dances' others to add UK TV 1966)
The weekend starts here - or it did back in 1966 anyway! Shockingly, Otis was never as successful in his American homeland as he was in Europe right up until his explosive 'homecoming' at the Monterey Pop festival in June 1967. A full year earlier, Otis was popular enough to be invited to appear as a guest for a full 'soul special' of the UK's second biggest show (one less chart based than 'Top Of The Pops') and was even introduced by Kathy McGowan as 'the world's greatest rhythm and blues singer'. 'RSGo!' encouraged their regular acts to nominate their favourite acts and many chose black American stars - Otis was The Animals' nominee and Eric Burdon ('a good friend of mine and I'm sure of yours!') who turns up to hang around and sing Sam and Dave's recent hit 'Hold On, I'm Coming!' as well as Chris Farlowe. Though the show takes a while to get going (the Mar Keys are uncharacteristically out of tune when they hit the first note of 'Satisfaction') this soon warms up into one of Otis' greatest recorded gigs. Otis now has the moves to go with the songs and has learnt to shut the audience out of his eye-line while still performing very much to them. A fiery 'Satisfaction' has never sounded better, 'Respect' is a lot more rock than soul, 'Pain In My Heart' is uncomfortably fast, 'Can't Turn You Loose' is even faster and feels like it's about to go out of control though never quite does and a riotous 'Shake!' features Otis and Eric together strutting their stuff (they sound great together when Eric actually works out what verse he's on!) Uniquely Otis segues 'Shake!' into 'Land Of A Thousand Dances', adding a touch of doo-wop to his soul. It sounds pretty good too. An energetic performance that's one of the best in the show's history and was lucky to have survived the cull - so few of the 'RSGo' 'Specials' have. Alas, like most Ready Steady Go shows, this one has never been officially released.
4) Live Olympia Paris ('Shake' 'Don't Mess With Cupid' 'My Girl' 'I've Been Loving You Too Long' 'Respect' 'Can't Turn You Loose' 'Satisfaction' 'Bare Footin' French Concert 1966)
Meanwhile, over in France, the soul juggernaut keeps a rolling. Otis looks a bit more tired here, though he's clearly been hard at work on the dance moves (he has a whole routine for 'Shake' now and runs on the spot for 'Satisfaction', which is why we've put these performances in this order). A poor mix where only the drums and occasional bursts of horn come through makes this one of the less impressive Redding shows out there although it's still worth seeing for two rare tracks - a repeat of the 'Cupid' and '1000 Dances' rarities from the UK show that goes on and on during an unexpected encore and somehow ends up in a cover of Wilson Pickett's 'Bare Footin'. The highlight of the show, though, is surely the emcee virtually ordering Booker T to play 'happy birthday' to celebrate the live show's anniversary which he's clearly very reluctant to do, being asked over and over again while the presenter slowly loses his rag! Four of the songs can be seen on the 'Dream To Remember DVD.
5) Stax Volt Revue ('Fa Fa Fa Fa Fa Fa (Sad Song)' 'My Girl' 'Shake!' 'Satisfaction' 'Try A Little Tenderness' Norway April 1967)
This show must be out of copyright or something because it keeps re-appearing down the years: there are multiple DVDs of it around ('Remembering Otis - Live '67' is the clearest copy and you get the two songs from the original Monterey film as a bonus) and it was repeated on BBC4 in a surprise 'Otis Redding night' in 2014. Despite lasting for an hour, Otis' set is only the last half and dare I say it he's rather upstaged by his supporting acts, especially an energetic Sam and Dave. Otis seems a little ragged and husky, perhaps suffering from the end of a virus. He still gives his all but somehow this Scandinavian show from two months prior to Monterey never quite takes off to the same extent. Otis tends to stick with the slower songs for the most part too, perhaps in a vain effort to save his fading voice. It's not a complete loss by any means though: 'My Girl' sounds especially rich tonight with some added Al Jackson drum rolls not heard on the original and the Mar-Keys hitting a rich seam of cool soul.
6) Monterey Pop Festival ('Shake!' 'Respect' 'I've Been Loving You Too Long' 'Satisfaction' 'Try A Little Tenderness' US Concert 1967)
The big one that helped make Otis the soul star of 1967 rather than just one of a number of wannabes. Few people knew Otis' name in the crowd before his gig - indeed Lou Rawls was probably the bigger name in soul at that time - but everything changes in the space of a cracking half hour gig. Though a nervy performer across his life, Otis seems remarkably at ease across the biggest audience he or probably any of the other acts of the weekend have ever played to, even speaking to them (something Otis hardly ever does) and nicknaming the bunch of hippies 'the love crowd, instantly understanding the summer of love vibes. He's even calm when he's asked mid-set to calm the audience down with fears of a riot - Otis plays the sweetest 'Try A Little Tenderness' as a result, calming things down for a few blissful moments before revving that song up into overdrive too. Otis also owns 'Satisfaction' at this gig like never before whole reclaiming 'Respect' as his own - explaining to the surprise of the crowd that he wrote the song until 'this girl' (Aretha Franklin) 'took it away from me'. After an afternoon of noodling - most of it by the Grateful Dead - the sheer oompah of the opening song 'Shake' is also perfect for a crowd who want to dance. Throughout Otis is immense and intense, giving his all right at the time when it mattered and writing himself into the history books in one go, the second really big hit of the festival playing late on the middle (Saturday) night. Dreams do sometimes come true and this crowd and this performer are perfect for each other. 'I've got to go - though Lord knows I don't want to go' yells Otis at the end, drenched in his customary sweat, at what will sadly be one of his last ever performances before his untimely death just six months later. With all-time best performances of all five songs played that night, the soundtrack has of course been reused lots and can be heard complete as half of the 'Otis and Jimi at Monterey' set released after both performers' deaths, as well as Otis' own box set 'Otis!' in 1993 and various compilations of the Monterey material. The video clips are harder to see, though 'Shake' and 'Respect' are both highlights of D A Pennebaker's film of the festival releases as 'Monterey Pop' in 1968 and the other three clips were used on the longer (and much pricier!) 'Monterey' box set in 1997 which includes the complete show, a Booker T interview and no less than two commentary tracks! The MGs also played their own show which exists on audio (with cracking versions of old stalwart 'Green Onions' and period hit 'Hip-Hug-Her' among others), but no filmed footage has ever come to light as far as I know.
7) Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa (Sad Song) (Music Video 1967)
Otis died long before music videos were essential to selling songs rather than something nice to have and he started relatively late in his career, though based on the three unusual choices he left us Otis might yet have grown into a master of the art. 'Sad Song' is the earliest, a simple mimed-and-in-mufti affair with Otis sitting down to sing this song apparently in a living room filled with chairs and paintings hanging on the walls while the MGs stand around him, Otis jokingly pointing at each member as he mimes the words 'your turn!' I don't think Otis has ever spent so long looking direct at the camera before this track. Included in the 'Dreams To Remember' DVD.
8) Tramp (Music Video 1967)
The one horror in Otis' career was a duets album with Carla Thomas released not long before he died. 'Tramp' is the one song fairly well known from that album though goodness knows why - it's just Carla moaning for three minutes about his clothes sense while Otis remarks 'What?!?' Usually Otis is immaculate, but he gets in on the joke for this simple video by dressing as 'country bumpkin' as Carla thinks he is, though he carries off the blue dungarees look rather well (would that Dexys Midnight Runners had looked this good). Otis doing sing or even mime and Carla doesn't even appear - instead this is a rare chance to see Otis goofing around 'Monkees' style, riding a horse and dressing up in a sharp lime green suit by the end, the pockets filled with cash which at least gives the character a chance to refute the accusations that never comes on record. Even so, the video, like the song, never quite works. Included on the 'Dreams To Remember' DVD.
9) Glory Of Love (Music Video 1967)
This video must surely be one of the last things Otis did before he died - the single wasn't even out for another few months, though the fact there is a video does make it likely that Otis had always planned it as the follow-up to 'Dock Of The Bay'. It's a sweet under-rated song similar to 'Try A Little Tenderness', sung live by Otis to a pre-recorded track and in a posh brown suit while he perches nervously over a bridge. Otis is back to trying his best not to look at the camera, though when he gets things together in the second verse and looks straight at us it's an electrifying moment. One question though - where have the MGs gone?!? Another from the 'Dreams To Remember' DVD.
10) Upbeat ('Try A Little Tenderness' 'Respect 'Knock On Wood' US TV 1967)
Otis lived his last day on Earth - December 9th 1967 - the way he'd lives most of his others, exceptionally busy on the first day of a proposed American tour where he was rushed round doing lots of things. In the morning he played a gig in Cleveland, in the afternoon he appeared on the local (but syndicated) music variety TV show 'Upbeat' - played an (unfilmed) evening show at Leo's Nightclub and in the early hours of the next morning he flew out to prepare for a gig in Wisconsin (and all this two days after a lengthy recording session that included 'Dock Of The Bay'). Only of course Otis never got there, a nasty sudden spell of fog and ice causing the plane he was on to crash into Lake Monona just short of Wisconsin's airport runway. There was only one survivor: Bar Key horn player Ben Cauley, who had been asleep until seconds before impact (the MGs, luckily, were on a separate plane and all survived - as did James Alexander, another member of the Bar-Keys band).You long to pull the band out of the telly and yell 'don't go' - but of
course there's no sign of the impending tragedy to come. Otis' last filmed show, then, has the weight of history sitting fat and heavy on its shoulders, but of course like most events before some major news story breaks there are no real signs or 'clues'. Otis is in a fine silly mood in fact, joking with the show's other guest Mitch Ryder and performing on a unique version of Mitch's growly 'Knock On Wood' that sounds rather good Reddingified! Rather sweetly, Otis is back dancing the way he once did on his first appearance, perhaps because he knows the song less well and 'swings' to get himself in the groove! The last two songs of his own that Otis sings are two of his most famous, 'Tenderness' and 'Respect' and both sound good without ever approaching the intensity of the Monterey performances. The MGs, Mar-Keys and Bar-Keys are also dressed in distracting bright orange jumpsuits, which is all a bit odd, though Otis himself is in a sensible black pullover. Little does Otis know it, but he'll only get to sing these classic songs one more time, which gives an extra eerie feel to the performances as Otis tried not to 'get sentimental'. Both tracks make a fitting coda to 'Dreams To Remember'.
11) (Sittin' On The) Dock Of The Bay (Music Video 2007)
Otis ran out of time to film a video for his most famous song, but his estate cobbled one together anyway for the 40th anniversary of his death and a means of promoting 'The Definite Soul' Collection' retrospective. It's a slightly clumsy promo, mainly made up of him dancing in slow motion and turning his head towards the camera - they might have been better off featuring Otis singing some slower song where his gestures were more in tune with the mood of the track. It's still a moving experience, though, with lots of family pictures of Otis at work and play sprinkled into the track including the best and rarest shot: a proud Otis pointing to his name at the top of his first bill in early 1967, the look of shock and excitement in his eyes. Not the best end to this list, but a fitting one all the same. We usually bring you outtake sets by our AAA bands round about now too, but there aren't many for Otis so we've squeezed in an 'extra' article here instead.
Sadly there aren't many Otis Redding outtakes to bring you, unlike
some of our other bands where we've come up with whole fake-records full of existing
tracks that we're longing to see released. It wasn't always like that. The
black market in Otis bootlegs used to be thriving as Stax, sensibly, released
their posthumous Redding records slowly and with care every few years or so. By
the release of the box set in 1993, though, there really is very little left
that isn't released - in fact it's incredible just how much material Otis left
unreleased in his lifetime, enough for four major compilations and bits and
pieces from many other sets. It seems safe to say that the studio vaults seem
empty now after twenty years without a sign of any new material.
In terms of bootleg concert recordings, however Otis has fared
better. The best of the handful of still-unreleased shows out there has to be a
gig in Birmingham, UK - probably the
outdoor show he played there in July 1966 judging by the audience noise (less
echoey than an arena or club gig). Otis is on great form for a bootleg that was
given the terrific unofficial name 'A Soupcan Of Soul' - a poun, of course, on
'Soupcon' because there really is a lot of soul in the music. The band are in a
slightly slower and more reflective mood while Otis himself is on terrific
form, nailing every last note and going after every last shriek and yell. This
is one last CD Otis' estate could release (the rights, surely, being less
bothersome as a home-recorded bootleg than most official tapes) and would be a
worthy testament to him with the only surviving live performance of many
classic songs including 'Your One and Only Man' and Beatles cover 'A Hard Day's
Night'. (Full track listing: 'Your One and Only Man' 'Pain In My Heart' 'These
Arms Of Mine' 'I Can't Turn You Loose' 'A Hard Day's Night'). Elsewhere a full
set exists from the 1967 European tour, in Sweden this time, although it's not
quite as sharp as the Birmingham one and exists in far grottier sound (full
tracklisting: 'Day Tripper' 'Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa (Sad Song)' ''My Girl' 'Shake'
'I've Been Loving You Too Long' 'Satisfaction' 'Try A Little Tenderness').