Thursday, 26 May 2011
You very nearly didn’t get this issue, dear reader, and the fact that you have it is little short of a miracle. You see I’ve just bought the new Fable game which seemed to cause havoc with my laptop so she wasn’t loading at all, but thank goodness she’s pulled through fine just at the time I needed her to write the next instalment of our on-going musical discussion (I still recommend the game though, as the game developers seem to have been listening to Jethro Tull and Moody Blues albums while making it, what with all the English pastoral weirdness in it – you even get a dog in this version which will be named Max after our AAA mascot). So what better album to bring you than one we Floyd fans thought we’d never get to hear, one that caused an awful lot of heartbreak and called off sessions before finally seeing the light of day? (The fact we got a sequel is even more extraordinary, but we’ll leave the tale of ‘Barrett’ for another day!) What else to tell you? Oh yes, we’ve now reached the unbelievable statistic of 6111 hits and seem to have picked up a bit again recently (hello new readers!) Perhaps it’s not too much of a coincidence that I also have 72 followers on Twitter, many of them music fans, so hello to all of you lot too and thanks for adding me – I’m alansarchives if you haven’t already found me yet! As well as various discussions/arguments over Coalition and Royal Family policy and complaints about the Spice Girls, you can also hear my intermittent ‘songs of the day’ (one of which will be from this very album!) What else? Oh yes things are going, erm...interestingly in the Sims version of CSNY which is turning out far too close to the real thing for comfort! Crosby's doing ok - he's doing well in the 'friends with other stars' category and has played a couple of sell out concerts. I just wish he'd do some rehearsal at home to get that artistic star rating too! I tried swapping him with Stills, but he won't talk to anybody and won't play for any crowd (he's getting quite good at busking on the quiet though). Even using them as a double act hasn't worked (and I've been relying on Nash to keep the peace as much as possible!) Neil? Well, truth be told I haven't seen him in a couple of gaming sessions. He was looking sad so I took him to a party at the Spice Girls house in the hope they'd look after him. Big mistake! Now he wants to move in with them! I can't have that! Come on guys, its only three months to the Woodstock anniversarym don't let me down now! *Sigh* In the meantime my eyes are tired from the game, my legs are worn out from chronic fatigue and my ears are full of the new Hollies set, so without further ado it’s on with the news...
♫ Kinks News: I was slightly disappointed with the long-awaited interview series ‘The Davies Diaries’ when it was on back in 1998 – its actually more of a long rambling interview from elder brother Ray as he discusses not only The Kinks but the music of the 1960s in general. Considering that we’ve never really had a full series discussing the many intricate layers of 30 years of Kinks product, I’d really been hoping to get more from the series – but recently I’ve been hastily digging through my old cassette collection to see if Ray talked about any of the other AAA artists we feature. Now I won’t have to look too hard because BBC6 are re-running the series in their ‘archive hour’ slot at 3 am, starting in the early hours of Wednesday, June 1st and running until Friday, June 3rd (presumably with two of the half hour programmes sandwiched together for the hour slot – or have BBC6 just got their sums wrong again?) More news next week when I’ve heard them again!
♫ Pink Floyd News: Just when fans were starting to accept that the ‘Live 8’ gig was a one-off and that we’d never see it’s like again came the startling news that David Gilmour and Nick Mason had guested at a Roger Waters’ concert performing ‘The Wall’. The gig took place unannounced at London’s 02 Arena – one of many dates played by Roger as part of a tour – where the three remaining members of the Floyd played on the grand finale ‘Outside The Wall’. The reunion, which seems a timely advert for the band’s planned mammoth reissue series in September, might not end there either according to comments made by Mason after the gig. All this despite widely reported news last year that Gilmour was ‘not interested’ in the band ever getting back together again. Well, the new get togethers certainly surprised us! More news if and when we hear it!
♫ Paul Simon News: If you’ve been reading these newsletters in order then you’ll know that in ‘news and views’ no 96 we discussed the top five AAA documentary series and sighed that our first choice – the superlative radio series The Paul Simon Songbook – was not available to buy and had not been repeated in some 20 years. So imagine our delight when we heard this week that BBC6 will be repeating the six part series in their ‘archive’ slot at 3am, starting in the early hours of Saturday, June 4th. The show features Paul Simon talking about two thirds of his back catalogue in painstaking detail and very interesting it is too, even if the series does sadly end in the ‘Graceland’ era. Listen out too for some typically frank-but-still-in-awe interviews with Art Garfunkel which are the most revealing of his career too, along with engineer Roy Halee, drummer Hal Blaine and a whole host of others. So for the second time on this newsletter we say hurrah BBC6! Now, while we’re on a roll, what other AAA documentaries would we like to see? How about the 1999 docs on CSNY and the Byrds? They were good too...
ANNIVERSARIES: It’s that time of year again for a bumper crop of AAA artists this week, born between May 28th and June 3rd: Papa John Creach (violinist with Jefferson Airplane/Starship 1970-75) would have been 94 on May 28th; Ray Laidlaw (drummer with Lindisfarne 1970-72 and 1978-2002, plus drummer with Jack The Lad 1973-78) turns 63 on May 28th; Ronnie Wood (guitarist with the Rolling Stones 1975-date) turns 64 on June 1st, Charlie Watts (drummer with the Rolling Stones 1962-date) turns 70 on June 2nd and Michael Clarke (drummer with The Byrds 1965-68) who would have been 67 on June 3rd. Anniversaries of events include: Ronnie Lane becomes the first member to leave The Faces to form his own band ‘Slim Chance’ (May 28th 1973); Roger McGuinn plays his first solo gig after the break-up of The Byrds (May 29th 1973); CSNY’s classic album ‘Deja Vu’ is released on it’s way to #1 in America (May 30th 1970); John and Yoko record their first single ‘Give Peace A Chance’ during their second bed-in at a Montreal Hotel (May 31st 1969); The Who break the record for the loudest ever concert at a show at Charlton Athletic’s Football Ground using a 76,000-watt ampage system (May 31st 1976); The Rolling Stones land at JFK airport for the first time, kick-starting a 45-year love affair with the United States (June 1st 1964); The Beatles release ‘Sgt Peppers’ (June 1st 1967); Ronnie Wood plays his first gig with the Rolling Stones on his 28th birthday after jamming with them the previous year (June 1st 1975); The Rolling Stones make their first V appearance in America – being laughed at by host Dean Martin for their long hair, ho ho they got the last laugh by finishing off his career! (June 3rd 1964) and finally, Ringo Starr collapses with tonsillitis, forcing the other Beatles to tour with last-minute replacement and ‘sixth or seventh Beatle’ Jimmy Nichol (June 3rd 1964).
Modern performers have it easy. Nowadays in 2011 if a rock star releases more than two albums a decade critics think they’re ‘spreading themselves too thinly’, so that Lady Gaga can get away with having her reputation rest on only two albums and singers like Adele can quite happily sit back and chart every other year of her life (we’ve had ‘19’ and now ‘21’ so ‘23’ must be next). Even AAA artists aren’t immune - why EMI even told Paul McCartney he could have 1996 off because after the Beatles Anthology project the year before the record label didn’t ‘need’ any new product from him for a while. But it never used to be like this. Back in the early to mid 1960s rock and roll was still seen as a fad that had to be captured and released quickly before the fickle audience disappeared to something else. Of course now, nearly 50 years after some of these albums were released, we know this music is never going to fade away or die – but the record executives who’d seen skiffle and jugband music come and go couldn’t possibly have forseen websites like this one discussing the work made in a three hour sessions as some sort of high art. So this week we look at the most productive days in AAA musical history, with the most released-in-the-band’s-lifetime songs recorded in a single day... (alas not every record label kept full documentation so we’ve had to exclude some vague recording dates from this list – see The Rolling Stones, for whom little recording info is known at all!)
5) Six songs recorded by The Hollies on the 29th October 1963: Like many albums on this list, this productive day was during sessions for what became the Hollies’ debut album, ‘Stay With The Hollies’ released in January 1964. The sessions kicked off with a driving cover of Chuck Berry’s ‘Memphis Tennessee’, which was the best version around till ‘Beatles at the BBC’ came out. The band then moved on to a song made famous by Chuck ‘Talkin’ Bout You’, best heard in extended form on the ‘EP Collection’ (and one of the few missing tracks not included on the ‘Clarke-Hicks-Nash Years’ box set). A slight detour into the Conway Twitty ballad ‘It’s Only Make Believe’ came next, with Clarke and Nash’s harmonies clearly showing the strain of several hours of recording. Next it was on with a rather wet cover of Little Richard’s ‘Lucille’, with block harmonies substituting for Richard Penniman’s rock and roll yell. The fifth track to be recorded was the slightly curious choice of ‘Baby Don’t Cry’, a rather drab novelty number that’s one of the few misfires on the early Hollies LPs. The band then finished with the slightly hysterical cover of the Gordy Junior hit ‘Do You Love Me?’, better known from a later Brian Poole and the Tremeloes cover. It’s another oddball choice for The Hollies that I can’t imagine appearing on any other AAA band’s discography, but the arrangement is impressive with Allan Clarke’s vocals a neat mix of innocence and the rawness that only comes after a long recording day. Amazingly, unlike many other AAA stars who go on to set their own rules and conditions, the Hollies will record five songs on a single day during sessions for next LP ‘In The Hollies Style’ (on the 27th April 1964) and a further four on the 15th December 1964.
4) Nine songs recorded by The Kinks on the 15th February 1965: Sessionography lists for Pye bands like The Kinks and The Searchers are a bit vague to say the least, but we do know that the band were holed up in London’s Pye Studios to make as many tracks as possible for their second album ‘Kinda Kinks’ on this day and all 12 tracks for the album had been finished by no later than February 17th (barring an A and B side and a resurrected outtake in ‘Don’t Ever Change’ recorded two months previously). Ray Davies is scathing about both Pye and this album in his ‘unauthorised autobiography’, remembering that he’d been pulled, jetlagged, off a plane in order to go record these songs while suffering from a nasty insect bite that had to be treated by doctors and was ‘pulled from the arms’ of his teenage bride and first baby. What a glamorous life rock stars lived in the 1960s! Certainly the recordings are rougher than any other Kinks album – even their first – and you can trace Ray Davies’ disappearing voice across the album, even if we don’t know which tracks were recorded first and last (my guess is that ‘Nothin’ In The World’ and ‘So Long’ came early on and the frantic ‘Look For Me Baby’ and ‘Dancing In The Street’ came near the end). Times did change for the band by the time of third album ‘The Kinks Kontroversy’ when Pye allowed the band the luxury of recording all 12 songs in – gosh – a whole week!
3) Ten songs recorded by The Beach Boys on the 16th of July 1963: We mentioned on our review for debut album ‘Surfin’ Safari’ (seed ‘news and views no 28) how lucky the Beach Boys were compared to their English counterparts by being given sessions spread over a few months to hone their style and get used to the recording studio. That had long passed by the time Capitol realised just how much product they were selling and by the time of this third album the band were back in a hot studio in July recording every single track but one for the album at the same session (all except the title track – recorded the month before – and ‘Little Deuce Coupe’, recorded a full 24 hours earlier!) The songs include such well loved fan favourites as ‘Catch A Wave’ ‘In My Room’ and ‘Our Car Club’ (indeed, many fans regard this album as the best of their pre-‘Pet Sounds’ recordings), which makes for a very successful day’s work indeed. Amazingly, too, you can’t really hear the band decline across this album as you can some of the others on this list – which is quite staggering given that a) the band had just come off a lengthy tour and b) even more than the other groups on this list The Beach Boys arrangements’ were so harmony driven. Things do let up slightly for the band – the bulk of follow up ‘Little Deuce Coupe’ was recorded in two separate sessions! No wonder Brian Wilson had a nervous breakdown just a year or so later...
2) Ten songs recorded by The Beatles on the 11th of February 1963: The famous one of course, that every fan knows, when every single track for debut ‘Please Please Me’ was recorded, barring the two A and B sides (‘Love Me Do’ ‘PS I Love You’ ‘Ask Me Why’ and ‘Please Please Me’ itself) was recorded in one hurried eight hour rush (see ‘news and views no 92 for more!) Thanks to the hard work of the Abbey Road Studio boffins we can even tell you what order they were recorded in – There’s A Place, I Saw Her Standing There, A Taste Of Honey, Do You Want To Know A Secret?, Misery, an abandoned attempt at ‘Hold Me Tight’ not counted for the sake of this article, Anna (Go To Him), Boys, Chains, Baby It’s You (where Lennon’s vocals are already becoming ragged) and of course Twist And Shout, recorded in one take only because the band had time to spare and wanted their Cavern crowd-pleaser on the record. No wonder Lennon’s vocals sound so ragged (he spent the half hour before the take drinking hot milk, while the band perfomed stripped to the waist under the hot studio lights, with the Abbey Road staff egging them on as per a live gig) – and no wonder the band were sent home after attempting a second take, with Lennon’s vocals shot to pieces. The amazing thing really is that such an inexperienced band who’d been working all day could pull off a masterpiece without a proper rehearsal – or that Lennon was ever able to talk, let alone sing, ever again. Even without ‘Twist and Shout’ in the mix this is an incredibly varied bunch, though, for one studio session. Thankfully things got easier during sessions for follow-up LP ‘With The Beatles’, although the bulk of this album was recorded in just three days spread out over a period of three months!
1) Eleven songs recorded by The Searchers sometime in 1963!: For years I’ve been reading about how the Searchers outdid The Beatles by recording every song on their debut album ‘Meet The Searchers’ except for the single ‘Sweets For My Sweet’. Unfortunately, nobody seems to know which day the band achieved this grand feat on – the CD sleevenotes tell me it was ‘within a day’, Frank Allen doesn’t know in his autobiography ‘Travelling Man’ because he hadn’t joined the band yet and no amount of research will reveal to me which date it was. Alas The Searchers were another band on Pye, who kept rough records of all recordings rather than fanatical notes like the EMI mob and so we only have the very vaguest of ideas. No matter though – people do seem to be agreed that the Searchers did record 11 songs on a single day and that’s good enough for me. Perhaps that fact explains why this album is so underwhelming compared to all four other masterpieces the Searchers released – the energy that’s the hallmark of the earlier recordings is missing for the most part (the band sound half asleep at times – though who can blame them cramming this lot into five or six hours?) and the sophistication that creeps in from 1964 hasn’t been discovered yet. As a result, only the hilarious ‘Love Potion no 9’ and the gorgeous ‘Since You Broke My Heart’ really shine through. It’s hard to hear any real strain on the band’s voice either – surprising given that in this era bassist Tony Jackson was doing the lion’s share of the singing – although ‘Farmer John’ does sound a bit scrappy and a likely candidate for being recorded at the end of the day.
Well, that’s it from us again. See you again next issue – assuming, of course, that our IT problems don’t come back to haunt us...