Saturday, November 28, 2015

The Clash - Rocker Station

Recent comment on my Nakano Sun Plaza, Tokyo, Japan (1982-01-28) posting:
"Great show; always looking for Clash bootlegs. Will definitely bookmark your site. More Clash please!"
Ask, Mr. Donihue, and you shall receive!

Here's the great Rocker Station bootleg, put together by super-Clash fan Sharoma. As per a previous post I did many moons ago on a bootleg by this band, I'm going to get out of the way and turn the narrative description of this set over to him . . . only Sharoma - come in Sharoma!

I didn't hear about this comp until about four/five years ago, long after it first appeared, so I had the devil's own time trying to track down a copy of it - it was especially tough since this is really not an official bootleg, just a fan's collection of odds and sods.  But mission accomplished, and gladly so; there's some gold on this here disc - including the live version of "The Magnificent Seven" the band played on Tom Snyder's Tomorrow show in 1981, while they were in New York during their legendary Bonds International Casino residency, and the demo version of the same song from the previous year (then titled "Dirty Harry [Speed Mix]"). 

Here's the rest of the track listing:
  1. Radio One
  2. Dirty Harry [Speed Mix]
  3. Rock The Casbah (Hot Tracks Mix)
  4. Overpowered By Funk (New York Remix) [Speed Mix]
  5. The Escapades Of Futura 2000
  6. Radio One (Reprise)
  7. The Escapades Of Futura Dub
  8. Overpowered By Funk (Instrumental)
  9. Rock The Casbah (Ultimix)
  10. The Further Adventures Of Futura 2000
  11. The Magnificent Seven (Tomorrow Show)
  12. Lightning Strikes (Live)
  13. The Magnificent Seven (Grooveblaster Remix)
  14. In The Pouring Rain (Demo)
Here - have a listen and pick out the standout tracks for yourself. Enjoy Sharoma's Rocker Station Clash rarities compilation (first formatted in 2002), and as always, let me know what you think.

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Tuesday, November 24, 2015

S.F. Seals - Baseball Trilogy EP

Years ago in this blog, I wrote effusively of my affection for the work of Barbara Manning. A longtime indie music stalwart out of San Francisco, Manning has sadly had little mainstream success in her career. But in indie circles around the world, her name is considered sacred. For more than thirty years, pretty much everything she has been involved in as a solo artist or band member has been nothing more than gold.   And this little EP is no exception; it's a weird and wonderful gem of a release.

Apparently, Barbara Manning has always had a thing for baseball. Note the cover of her first major solo compilation, 1991's One Perfect Green Blanket (a poetic euphemism for a ballfield).  This album includes a sample from the broadcast of the National League San Francisco Giants' 1989 Western Division victory (the same year they were swept by their cross-bay rivals the Oakland As in the infamous "Earthquake Series").   And after working as a solo artist in the early 1990s, her first post-World of Pooh band was named The S.F. Seals, after the famous minor-league team that represented San Francisco in the Pacific Coast League for more than fifty years. So it was only a matter of time, apparently, before Ms. Manning addressed her love for baseball in song.

Barbara's selections for inclusion on this disc are varied and eclectic. The lead song, "Joltin' Joe DiMaggio", was originally released in 1941 by Les Brown & His Band of Renown (fronted by singer Betty Bonney), just after DiMaggio's famous 56-game hitting streak with the New York Yankees ended (prior to joining the Yankees, DiMaggio played for the Seals). Manning and her band faithfully recreate the jazzy, big-band sound of the original recording. It's a fun, funny record for indie alt-rockers to perform, yet they pull it off brilliantly.

For the stomp-rocker "The Ballad of Denny McLain", Barbara cedes vocal duties to bandmate Lincoln Allen. This song is another cover, originally recorded by the legendary and eccentric Bay Area band Mad V. Dog & the Merchants of the New Bizarre. It documents the story of the infamous Detroit
pitcher, the last Major League pitcher to win 30 games in a season (in 1968), but who got involved with organized crime figures and ended up serving several long stints in prison in the '80s and '90s for various serious charges (his first conviction was for cocaine trafficking, embezzlement and racketeering; his co-defendants were Anthony Spilotro (Joe Pesci's character in Casino was based on him) and later John Gotti, Jr.).

The final (and in my opinion, the best) song on the EP, the fuzzed-out psychedelic guitar workout "Dock Ellis", celebrates the Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher who allegedly threw a complete no-hit game on June 12th, 1970 while tripping on a massive dose of LSD.

Soon after finally acquiring World of Pooh's The Land of Thirst in 2000, I went on a big Barbara Manning buying spree, tracking down everything of hers that I could find: much of her solo work, the rest of her World of Pooh stuff, and her collaborations with 28th Day, The Original Artists, The Go-Luckys! and The S.F. Seals - including this disc. I'm glad I did; this is a superb addition to her canon. Check it out and see for yourself.

Here's The S.F. Seals' Baseball Trilogy EP, released by Matador Records on November 1st, 1993. Enjoy, and as always, let me know what you think.

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Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Various Artists - Virgin Megastore Anatomy of Music: Volume One

A CD music sampler given away for free (with purchase) at participating Virgin Megastores worldwide in 1997. I recall
getting mine when I purchased Bjork's Homogenic in the store at Grapevine Mills Mall in Texas that fall. They just sort of handed it to me at the register; I was happy to receive it (free is always good), but there was nothing on the recording particularly cutting-edge or out of the ordinary.

You can determine that for yourself - here's the track list:
1. One Way Or Another - Blondie
2. Crowded House - Something So Strong
3. We're An American Band - Grand Funk Railroad
4. It Ain't Over 'Til It's Over - Lenny Kravitz
5. Fly Like An Eagle - Steve Miller
6. Thing Called Love - Bonnie Raitt
7. Rock This Town - Stray Cats
8. I'm Still In Love With You - Al Green
9. Hungry Like The Wolf - Duran Duran
10. Locomotive Breath - Jethro Tull
11. What's Love Got To Do With It? - Tina Turner
12. American Pie - Don McLean
13. Behind The Wall Of Sleep - The Smithereens
14. Higher Ground - The Red Hot Chili Peppers
15. The Weight - The Band
I believe that Virgin's goal on this disc was to break down music into its major parts and groups - rock, New Wave, easy listening, R&B, etc. - then provide representative examples of what they considered the best in each type of genre, in order to inculcate listeners who might not have as much familiarity with these different sounds (and hopefully generate more sales in their stores). Fair enough . . . On this thing, Virgin went out of their way to provide something for everyone, in the most inoffensive way possible; there's nothing on here that's going to generate controversy or set your hair on fire. I assume that Virgin planned on making these Anatomy of Music compilation freebies an ongoing thing at their stores, but they only put out one
more of them (Volume 2: Love Songs) before discontinuing the series in 1998.

The reason I'm posting this recording is as follows: I was looking through my CD racks this evening and came across this old disc. On a whim, I looked it up on Google, and found that this old giveaway - filled with conventional hits easily acquired from other sources - was being sold on Amazon for $50! I'm sorry, but that sort of blatant money-grubbing pisses me off.

So in order to head off the gougers (and the people seriously considering forking over big money for a CD like this), I offer to you for your enjoyment Virgin Megastore Anatomy of Music: Volume One, put out by Virgin Entertainment Group in late 1997. Enjoy this soothing musical pablum and, as always, let me know what you think.

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Friday, November 13, 2015

The Beatles - Please Please Me (Purple Chick) (2-disc set)

R.I.P. to British musician Andrew White, who died on Monday, November 9th at the age of 85. Beatles aficionados know of Andy White as one of many "Fifth Beatles", although his claim to that title is more secure than other would-be pretenders: he was the session drummer who infamously was called in to replace Ringo Starr on the kit during the recording of The Beatles' first single, "Love Me Do".

White began drumming literally before most of The Beatles were even born, and by the mid-1940s, before George Harrison had started primary school, he was working as a professional session drummer. In the late 1950s, he formed a big-band outfit that was good enough to take across the Atlantic; his group toured the Eastern Seaboard of the U.S., sharing bills with early American rockers like Bill Haley and Chuck Berry. Quickly seeing where the future lay, White abandoned his big band shortly
thereafter, and more and more began working with members of the nascent British rock scene. In 1960, he served as drummer for Billy Fury on his debut album, The Sound of Fury, credited as the first authentic English rock 'n' roll album. By the early '60s, White knew both his craft and his way around the rock genre.

The Beatles, recently signed by Parlophone, went into EMI Studios in London in early September, 1962 to record sides for their debut single, scheduled for release later that fall. The band had prepared six songs for eventual selection as A/B sides, including "Love Me Do", "Please Please Me", and a lightweight Adam Faith-penned song called "How Do You Do It?" (a hit the following year for Gerry & The Pacemakers). At that point, the band's producer George Martin had little confidence is his new charges' songwriting abilities, and for that reason was pushing for "How Do You Do It?" as the debut A-side. But Martin began showing interest in "Love Me Do", mainly due to the wailing harmonica played by John Lennon, a sound that had featured on several British hits that year, including Bruce Channel's "Hey Baby" and Frank Ifield's "I Remember You". After recording both songs, and after much deliberation, the decision was made on September 4th for "Love Me Do" to be the lead single.

However, Martin was dissatisfied with Starr's drumming on the September 4th recording, considering it to be not as "tight" as he would prefer. A rerecording session was scheduled for a week later; Martin was going to be absent from the studio, so assistant producer Ron Richards was placed in charge of the session for that day. The weekend prior to the session, acting on Martin's orders, Richards quietly contacted Andy White and requested that he attend the upcoming Beatles session (George Martin had used White as a session musician several previous times in the early 1960s, and was thoroughly familiar with his style and professionalism).

So Ringo and the band were taken by surprise when, on September 11th, they arrived at EMI to find White behind the drum kit. But Starr took it like a man; as Richards recalled later: "He just sat there quietly in the control box next to me . . . Ringo is lovely—always easy going" [Richards' memory was in error - during the recording, Ringo was out on the floor with the band, but was relegated to playing the tambourine].

Though he appeared to hide it well, needless to say Ringo WAS disappointed, recalling later:
"On my first visit in September we just ran through some tracks for George Martin. We even did "Please Please Me". I remember that, because while we were recording it I was playing the bass drum with a maraca in one hand and a tambourine in the other. I think it's because of that that George Martin used Andy White, the 'professional', when we went down a week later to record "Love Me Do". The guy was previously booked, anyway, because of Pete Best [the band, with Best on drums, had recorded a version of the song during their EMI Artist Test session earlier that year in June that Martin was also dissatisfied with]. George didn't want to take any more chances and I was caught in the middle. I was devastated that George Martin had his doubts about me. I came down ready to roll and heard, 'We've got a professional drummer.' He has apologised several times since, has old George, but it was devastating — I hated the bugger for years; I still don't let him off the hook!"
With the Andy White version of "Love Me Do" in the can, work then immediately commenced on the B-side, "P.S. I Love You". White also drummed on that, with Ringo again playing a backup role, shaking maracas in the background.

The version of "Love Me Do" with Starr on drums was used on the early British pressings of the single, released on October 5th, 1962. But the version with White on drums was used on the first American pressings of the single (released on April 27th, 1964), all later releases of the single, and on the Beatles' debut British album, Please Please Me, in 1963.
Most of The Beatles' subsequent albums that included the song used the White version (a simple way to distinguish between the two is that White's version features Starr on tambourine; there is no tambourine on Starr's version).

For his labors at the studio that day, Andy White received a grand total of 10 pounds as payment, plus an extra 50 pence for bringing his drum kit. He received no royalties from, nor credit on, the recording. It was the first and last time White ever worked with the band, but it was enough to get him in the history books as the first "fifth Beatle" whose contributions made it onto an official recording during the band's active life.

White remained a session drummer for the remainder of his career, playing with the likes of Herman's Hermits and Anthony Newley. He did participate on other hit records, most notably drumming on Tom Jones' 1965 smash "It's Not Unusual". He ended up on the cabaret and backing band circuit until his retirement in 1975. In the late 1980s he moved to the U.S.; he married and settled in New Jersey, where he lived until his death, teaching music and working for regional pipe band associations.

In commemoration of Andy White's life and the small but important contribution he made to the early Beatles' sound and subsequent legend, I proudly offer Please Please Me (Deluxe Version), compiled by the good people at Purple Chick in 2006. This two-disc set includes mono and stereo versions of songs on the album, along with various takes of selected tunes. As an added bonus, I've included both the Ringo version of "Love Me Do" and the Pete Best version as well. The latter went missing for years and was assumed lost, but was tracked down in the EMI archives and included in the 1995 Anthology 1 set. See if you can spot the differences in each of the three versions!

Enjoy, and as always, let me know what you think. And on behalf of the band (including Ringo) and Beatles fans the world over, let me say thank you once again, Mr. White.

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Wednesday, November 11, 2015

The Fall - Masquerade (Single) (Discs 1 & 2)

Most of the stuff on these discs was recorded during the tension-fraught Levitate sessions in mid-1997, studio time filled with financial pressures, band member walkouts (Simon Wolstoncroft) and reentries (Karl Burns), unpaid producers quitting in disgust, and creation of semi-coherent, structureless songs, most of which for some reason vocalist and group leader Mark E. Smith refused to sing (Smith later admitted that, at the time, he was "drinking heavily", "paranoid" and "losing it"). Somehow out of all of this confusion and turmoil (a portion of which I alluded to here), an album was produced, but neither the methods to create it nor the final product were particularly inspiring or pretty.

Levitate was the last in a series of weak and generally unmemorable 1990s Fall albums issued in the wake of 1993's The Infotainment Scan, considered at the time of its release the band's most accessible and commercially successful album (debuting at #9 on the British album charts). As I wrote in an earlier piece I did regarding The Fall during this era:
The 1990s were an iffy period for The Fall, in my opinion. Brix had left Mark E. Smith and the band, and her presence and ear for pop-friendly hooks was sorely missed. Her absence did serve as the inspiration for one of the best Fall albums of that era, 1990's Extricate . . . From there, the albums began a gradual decade-long slide into mediocrity. There were some high spots here and there: Code: Selfish and The Infotainment Scan had many high moments. But other releases like Middle Class Revolt and Cerebral Caustic seemed to lack the imagination and fire of some of the band's best material from the 1980s. And, of course, the infamous onstage punchup in New York in 1998 that led to the departure of longstanding Fall stalwarts like Steve Hanley didn't help either. The Fall really didn't start to get its shit back together until 1999's The Marshall Suite.
At the time of its release in September 1997, Levitate was The Fall's worst performing album since 1979's Dragnet (which did not chart), only making it as high as #117 on the British charts. The tragedy of all this is that even with all of the craziness going on during the recording sessions, there were some great songs produced during that period, that for some ungodly, unknown reason were not included on the album itself.   Instead, these songs were bundled with various versions of album cuts onto a couple of CD singles released in early 1998, shortly after Levitate dropped.

Masquerade (Disc 1) contains the following track listing:
1. Masquerade (Single Mix)
2. Ivanhoes Two Pence
3. Spencer Must Die (Live)
4. Ten Houses Of Eve (Remix)
Songs 1, 3 and 4 are versions of songs included on the album. The only "new" song here is "Ivanhoe's Two Pence", a shambling, chugging workout of a song set on a strong rhythmic foundation - no wonder, since longtime Fall bassist Steve Hanley co-wrote it (his 100th (and as it turned out, last) songwriting credit with the band). Despite the rudimentary, almost slapdash nature of the song, it's still better than much of what ended up on Levitate.

Disc 1 is OK, but for my money, the real gold of the Levitate sessions is contained in Masquerade (Disc 2). Here's the track listing:
1. Masquerade (Single Mix)
2. Calendar
3. Scareball
4. Ol' Gang (Live)
The first and last tunes here are album track versions. But the second and third songs, "Calendar" and "Scareball", are some of the great "lost" Fall tracks, and probably my favorite Fall songs of the past twenty years.

The circumstances behind the recording of "Calendar" are weird and interesting, as all good Fall stories are: In the early winter of 1997, shortly after Levitate was released, Mark E. Smith went out on the town in Manchester and tied one on. Stumbling out of the Night & Day pub late that evening, Smith jumped into what he assumed was a cab and ordered the driver to take him home. However, it was no cab; it was the private car of a local musician named Damon Gough — aka Badly Drawn Boy — who just happened to be idling outside the pub at the time. Gough was still relatively unknown at the time; his first EP had been released only three months earlier, and he was still two years removed from worldwide acclaim with his album The Hour Of Bewilderbeast. Gough agreed to drive Smith home, but only after getting Smith to commit that the Fall record one of Gough's songs, the instrumental "Tumbleweed", which was reworked by the two in the studio later that month into "Calendar". Badly Drawn Boy even guests on guitar, resulting in an interesting collaboration between two of Britain's leading independent musicians. Just a great song:

As for "Scareball", this song was written by keyboardist (and Smith's then-girlfriend) Julia Nagle; it was based on a demo that Nagle recorded with her previous group, the Manchester-based What? Noise the year before. The tune is essentially a point-counterpoint duet between Smith and Nagle, with some excellent guitar work and a catchy little keyboard riff thrown in for good measure:

I found these discs for sale at the old Virgin Megastore at Grapevine Mills Mall in Texas in early 1998. I noticed the similarities in the design of the singles covers to that of the parent album, which I had purchased a couple of months prior and, frankly, didn't particularly like. But as a longtime Fall fan, I was damned if I was going to leave any band product up on the shelf, unpurchased. I'm glad I did - I find the music on these two EPs superior to the majority of what could be found on Levitate. Apparently, others did as well - the Masquerade singles charted in England significantly higher than The Fall's previous album release. Now, I am not by any means claiming that the addition of these songs to Levitate would have made the album that much more acclaimed or successful. It just seems to me that the disc could have used a bit more of the innovative spirit and "pep" inherent in these sidelined works.

It would be nice to claim that the songs off of these EPs were precursors for The Fall's future success, and pointed the way towards the band's critical and creative reemergence in the late 1990s (sparked by the release of The Marshall Suite) - but that claim just doesn't hold up under scrutiny. After the disastrous 1998 American tour, punctuated by the Brownies on-stage altercation that led to the departure of longtime Fall members Hanley and Karl Burns, Smith was forced to reconstitute the band with all new members, which necessitated a return to basics - specifically to the more simplistic rockabilly-influenced sound of earlier group lineups. The new band members brought a new level of spirit and energy to The Fall's music, similar to what the best of the Masquerade songs offered, but it wasn't as if they were in any way influenced by or building upon that sound.

It's still an open question as to which direction The Fall would have moved in if the pre-1998 members had stayed in the band - whether they would have followed the Masquerade singles trend, or just continued to simply crank out uninspired, half-assed albums like Cerebral Caustic and Levitate. Who knows? All I can say is that, in many ways, the New York bustup was a blessing in disguise, and may have saved the band.

But enough of all that. Here you go - The Fall's two Masquerade EPs, released by Artful Records in January 1998. These discs are fairly hard to come by now - Artful went belly-up more than a decade ago, and all of their releases are currently out of print. So enjoy, and as always, let me know what you think.

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