♫ Hello everybody and welcome to our 50th issue! Sorry once
again for the delay in newsletters for the past few weeks – it’s
my health that’s got in the way this time, not my laptop’s for
once! This may prove to be our last newsletter of the year as
well so – just in case – we wish all our members a happy xmas
and look forward to seeing you in the new year. As a special treat, this will be an extended version of the newsletter, taking in an extended ‘top 5’ and all of the news items we’ve missed over the last week or two as well as our usual review. And of course we will be taking our yearly look back at the year’s releases, celebrating the highs and lows of 2009. What a year it’s been, dear readers - 33 newsletters taking in everything from talking cows to articles sent back to us through time with lots of great great music in between. There’s been a new lease of life for The Beatles, a return to form from Cat Stevens, the end of Oasis and a sad goodbye to Buffalo Springfield drummer Dewey Martin. As for our AAA artists, they’ve given us wit, wisdom, laughter and some more great CDs, although sadly most of them seem to be re-issues again this year. More on that story later, as they say, for now we say adios to 2009 and hope that 2010 will be another stellar year in terms of new releases.
♫ Beatles News: In our original draft for this newsletter we were all set to say what a quiet end to the year The Beatles were having after all that hoo-hah in September when everything fab four-related seemed to be back on the shelves again (I swear I even saw a yellow submarine lunchbox!) But now Paul McCartney has a new DVD out, or will have once we go to press, entitled ‘Good Evening New York City’ and catching the fab one live with his current band during a gig at the Citi Field. Like most things modern and Macca it comes in a myriad of different versions: a 2 CD and 1 DVD set and a 2 CD and 2 DVD set featuring bonus footage. The set will also be available as a digital download, apparently, but I wouldn’t have a clue about that.
An even weirder – and expensive – xmas for the Beatles pundit this year is a storage case for htis year’s Beatle re-issue frenzy, bookended by two books detailing the discographies of the US/UK and in the second book the rest of the world with rare picture sleeves to boot. Very nice, but the second book isn’t really relevant when the set only replicates the UK versions of the records (barring the US version of ‘Magical Mystery Tour’) and has a £82 price tag. Ouch! (I got my set of the music for £135!)
Finally, what better way to see out the year than in the company of the fab four? Paul Gambaccini offers yet another take on the Beatles’ history on Radio 2 on December 30th and 31st with ‘Here, There And Everywhere’, ambitiously trying to tell in two hours what the Beatles’ Anthology series failed to do in ten.
♫ CSN News: Well, its not strictly a CSN release but they are one of the lynch-pins of a well-received new book of photographs about the artists who lived in Los Angeles’ Laurel Canyon. The book, titled ‘Canyon Of Dreams: The Magic And The Music Of Laurel Canyon’, is written by Harvey Kubernik and published by Sterling.
♫ Jefferson Airplane/Starship News: A welcome discovery that’s slipped out quietly during the last few months – with no mention in any music papers that I saw – is the first ‘proper’ CD release of the first five Jefferson Starship albums (some of them have been out before, but only on a series of increasingly head-scratching two-for-one combinations). The set includes mini-CD replica sleeves for the superlative ‘Dragonfly’, the over-rated million-selling ‘Red Octopus’, the under-rated piddling-selling ‘Spitfire’, the weak ‘Earth’ and the energetic ‘Freedom At Point Zero’, although the only bonus tracks are a handful of alternate takes and demos for ‘Red Octopus’. It’s a nicely presented set, though, that will look good on the shelf next to the Jefferson Airplane 5 CD set (which contains Takes Off!/Surrealistic Pillow/Bathing At Baxters/Crown Of Creation/Bless It’s Little Pointed Head – everything you need for a truly psychedelic trip in other words, although of course these albums have been out on CD individually for decades now in different formats)
♫ Monkees News: This Saturday, December 19th, Radio 4 will attempt to tell the story of The Monkees in, erm, half an hour. The show, entitled ‘Here We Come’, is already causing controversy due to Davy Jones’ allegations that everything that went wrong with the band was down to Mike Nesmith. And we thought the BBC were ambitious trying to tell the fab four’s story in two hours...
♫ Oasis News: Liam Gallagher will definitely be continuing his recording career under his own name backed by the other band members, while brother Noel has been keeping uncharacteristically quiet about his future. However, Noel has been in the news enthusing over the remix of Oasis track ‘Falling Down’ by Amorphous Androgynous – a four-minute work of promise from the band’s final album ‘Dig Out Your Soul’ now extended into a 22-minute epic.
♫ Pink Floyd News: A tape of the Floyd’s early Top Of The Pop’s appearance plugging ‘See Emily Play’ in July 1967 has come to light after being mis-labelled for decades in an anonymous music archivist’s collection. The show from Jul 6 1967, along with another from July 27 that year, will be screened as part of the ‘Missing: Believed Wiped’ event at London’s SouthBank on January 9 next year. Another TOTP discovery was made by the family of comedian Dick Emery, recently, who discovered that one 1974 show in his collection was not in the BBC archives.
♫ Rolling Stones News: Two big big anniversaries for the Stones this month: First up, it’s 40 years since Altamont (or was on December 6th anyway), the Stones’ free festival that ended up with four deaths (including one murder) and effectively ended the trend for free festivals begun so wonderfully by Woodstock just 4 months before. Radio 2 celebrated, if that’s the right word, by way of a fascinating documentary looking back at all the factors that went to make up the mess and included a few snatches of performances and interviews that haven’t been broadcast before. BBC 4 also repeated the ‘Gimme Shelter’ film of the concert – planned with such enthusiasm for the stars taking part and instead twisted to become a moving and harrowing glimpse at how so many good intentions can go so bad so fast. The scene of Meredith Hunter’s death from a Hells Angel’s knife still has the power to shock to this day, as do Mick Jagger’s increasingly frustrated attempts to calm the crowd down. However, it’s sad that only the Stones’ part in events ever seems to get mentioned – CSN performed, albeit briefly while Jefferson Airplane singer Marty Balin – the unsung hero of the festival - even got beaten up by a Hell’s Angel in an attempt to stop an argument going on in the front row while the rest of the band play on, horrified (Paul Kantner’s neat response: ‘to the hell’s angel whose just beaten up our lead singer...gee, thanks for that!’)
It’s also 40 years since the second and for most people definitive Stones live album ‘Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out!’ The show, recorded during the Stones’ tour of 1969 is yet another example of the Stones producing live albums from their weakest tours not their best but is still well regarded by many a Stones fanatic. The latest re-issue includes a DVD of performances from the same period and the restored opening sets by Tina Turner and BB King. Paint it black, you devils!
♫ Cat Stevens/Yusuf News: There’s a repeat hearing of the nicely intimate ‘Radio 2 Live’ perfomance from earlier this year on December 22nd, which features plenty of classic songs (including some rarities such as early song ‘Portobello Road’ and film soundtrack song ‘Don’t Be Shy’) as well as songs from Yusuf’s impressive new album ‘Roadsinger’.
♫ Neil Young News: A surprise and welcome showing of the 2005 Neil concert film ‘Heart Of Gold’ took place on Channel Five the other week. A shame the UK premiere of this Nashville concert had to take place in the early hours but still, it was an unexpected bonus for us British fans and reveals the film to be a rather lopsided affair featuring the whole of the patchy but still best-in-a-decade album ‘Prairie Wind’, followed by some old acoustic friends dominated by 1992’s ‘Harvest Moon’ with a delightful ‘Comes A Time’ and thoughtful ‘Old Man’ the highlights.
♫ ANNIVERSARIES: (December 5-11th) Happy Holidays to the following AAA musicians – Jim Messina (bassist with The Buffalo Springfield 1968) who turns 62 on December 5th and Bobby Elliott (drummer with The Hollies 1964-present) who turns 67 on December 8th. Anniversaries of events include: The Rolling Stones hold a ‘Beggar’s Banquet’ to celebrate the release of their new album – it quickly turns into a food fight between the band and the media (December 5th 1968); The Beatles fan club posts the very first fab four xmas flexidisc to thousands of members (December 6th 1963); it’s 40 years since four people died at the Rolling Stones’ hosted free concert at Altamont Speedway. AAA groups CSNY and Jefferson Airplane also appeared (the Grateful Dead were due to play but refused due to the ‘bad vibes’) (December 6th 1969 – the ‘Gimme Shelter’ film outlined above is premiered on the same day in 1970); The Beatles appear on the pop panel show Jukebox Jury in a well remembered TV appearance sadly missing from the archives (December 7th 1963); CS and N announce to the press their intention of working together in the future – the trio begin recordings the following summer (December 7th 1967); On the same day The Beatles’ Apple Boutique begins its ill-fated run in London’s Baker Street (December 7th 1967); The Beach Boys release their first single ‘Surfin’ which becomes a minor hit on the national charts (December 8th 1961); Pink Floyd release ‘The Wall’ 30 years ago this week (December 8th 1979); John Lennon dies 29 years ago this week on December 8th 1980 at the age of just 40; the same week in 1972 saw the first issue of Lennon’s ‘Happy Xmas (War Is Over)’ single which surprisingly flops the first time round, having been issued too close to yuletide to reach most radio playlists (December 9th); The Moody Blues’ first line-up, including Wings’ Denny Laine on lead vocals, release their famous single ‘Go Now’ (December 10th 1964); The Minbenders release their first single with future 10cc member Eric Stewart on lead vocals ‘Groovy Kind Of Love’ (December 10th 1965); Gentle Giant Otis Redding dies in a plane crash at the age of 27 (December 10th 1967) and finally, Lennon releases his ‘primal scream’ album, Lennon/Plastic Ono Band, the record that waves goodbye to the Beatles in more ways than one (December 11th 1970).
Anniversaries (December 12-18th): Happy Birthday To You if your name is Ray Jackson (singer and harmonica player with Lindisfarne 1970-75 and 1978-93) who turns 61 on December 12th, Frank Allen (bassist with The Searchers 1964-present) who turns 66 on December 14th, Tony Hicks (guitarist with The Hollies 1963-present) who turns 66 on December 16th and Keith Richards (guitarist with The Rolling Stones 1963-present) who turns 66 on December 18th. Anniversaries of events include: Pink Floyd’s first ever concert outside their local college for charity Oxfam as part of an all star cast of young hopefuls at the Royal Albert Hall (December 12th 1966); The Rolling Stones Rock ‘n’ Roll Circus is recorded during a marathon 22-hour session from the early hours of December 12th-13th December 1968. It won’t be seen by anyone outside the band for another 25 years; the first ever solo Beatles concert takes place when the Plastic Ono Band, with a guesting Eric Clapton on lead guitar, perform a set at the Toronto Peace Festival (December 12th 1969); The day after sees The Who playing their new rock opera Tommy at London’s Colosseum Opera House (December 13th 1969); Mick Taylor leaves the Rolling Stones to make way for Ronnie Wood (December 14th 1974); George Harrison is deported from Hamburg for playing a club while under-age (the rest of the Beatles sheepishly make their way back to Liverpool without him, after a short brush with the police who charge two of the makeshift Beatles for trying to set their employers’ club on fire; December 16th 1960) and finally The Who call it a day – for the next seven years at least – with a farewell show at Canada’s Maple Leaf Gardens, Toronto, with The Small Faces’ Kenny Jones on drums (December 17th 1982).
And finally, hip-hip hooray to those between December 19-25th: Carl Wilson (guitarist and so much more with The Beach Boys 1961-2003) who would have been 63 on December 21st and Ian Burden (keyboardist and programmer with the Human League) who turns 52 on December 24th. Anniversaries of events include: Keith Moon’s first on-stage collapse (of many during his 12 years in the limelight), as early as The Who’s 1965 UK tour (December 19th 1965); Paul Simon scores what is to date his only #1 solo single with ’50 Ways To Leave Your Lover’ (December 20th 1975); The Beatles begin their 1963 Christmas Show tour (December 21st); Janis Joplin is the special guest star vat a one-night only Stax super-star soul night (December 21st 1968); Small Faces drummer Kenny Jones officially joins The Who in the wake of Keith Moon’s death in September (December 22nd 1978); Paul McCartney performs his last ever gig with Wings at the fondly remembered Kampuchea Benefit concerts in London – there are rumours of a Beatles reunion too, reportedly the closest all four members ever came to an agreement. The gig is also special because its the first time McCartney is meant to have met Elvis Costello, his future writing partner, who is also performing at the event (December 22nd 1979); Tom and Jerry, aka Simon and Garfunkel, release their first ever single at the tender age of 14. ‘Hey Schoolgirl’ is a bit local hit that becomes a minor national chart entry (December 23rd 1957); Mike Smith of Decca Records travels to the Cavern Club to see the Beatles play – contrary to popular opinion about Decca, the label are really interested in the band until Brian Poole and the Tremeloes comes along and the label demur over signing two such similar bands at the same time come January (December 23rd 1961); Poor Brian Wilson has a pretty miserable xmas in 1964, after suffering his infamous breakdown on a plane leaving home for yet another American tour – this is the last time he will be a regular sight on a Beach Boys stage (December 23rd); Ready Steady Go goes away forever when the last edition of this iconic series is broadcast on December 23rd 1966; Blues singer Johnny Ace dies when a game of Russian roulette goes wrong on December 24th 1954 – his death will help inspire the classic Paul Simon song ‘The Late Great Johnny Ace’ in 1983; The Who chart with their first album ‘My Generation’ in the UK (December 25th 1965) and finally, Paul McCartney and Jane Asher announce their engagement on December 25th 1967. The relationship only lasts a few months after this, however...