Wednesday, July 30, 2008

First Time

The first record I ever owned was 'by' Bugs Bunny. I was 5 and had been handed down an old wind-up gramophone which played 78s. One day, its lid fell down, causing the needle to bounce and ‘stab’ the disc, shattering it. A year later, Russell Thompson (my uncle) gave me my first 45. He worked at Decca Records (UK) and the record that started it all off for me was Bill Haley and His Comets' 'Rock Around The Clock'. It had a great B-side, 'Thirteen Women' which, apparently, was the original A-side in the States until they flipped it. My dad had a huge classical lp collection, all neatly shelved (I once found a Playboy featuring Jayne Mansfield in amongst the Handels) but never played because, for years, he never had a proper gramophone that worked. Periodically, my uncle would come over and give me whatever he had kicking about. He was a showtunes guy… '76 Trombones', 'Oklahoma', so he didn’t mind giving me the noisy, kid stuff. Decca was a pretty big distributor (EMI and Pye were the other major UK record companies back then) and they had a number of different labels including Brunswick, London American, Coral, Monument and Atlantic on their books. The next 45s he gave me, roughly in order: Sandy Nelson's 'Let There Be Drums', Del Shannon's 'So Long Baby', Bobby Darin's 'Multiplication', Pat Boone's 'Johnny Will', Little Eva's 'Keep Your Hands Off My Baby', Del Shannon's 'Little Town Flirt', The Tornados' 'Globetrotter', 'Robot' and 'Ice Cream Man', The Caravelles' 'You Don’t Have To Be Baby To Cry', The Cascades' 'Rhythm Of The Rain' and Billy Fury's 'Like I've Never Been Gone' and 'In Summer'. You’ll notice in several cases, he gave me the follow up to the hit. I remember asking him for The Tornados' 'Telstar', Jet Harris & Tony Meehan's 'Diamonds', Little Eva's 'The Locomotion' and the Billy Fury & The Tornados EP, but I guess it slipped his mind. Those record company people...
Then, in mid-1963, he started coming to lunch on Sundays more frequently, and things started to get really good. I got an advance of 'Come On' by some group called
The Rolling Stones a week before my 10th birthday and from then on, whenever he came over he’d give me a (25) box of all the latest Decca releases. All the early singles by The Zombies, The Small Faces, The Stones (all, except 'Little Red Rooster', for some reason), The Who, Them, Lulu, Marianne Faithfull, Dave Berry, Marc Bolan (pre-John's Children, let alone Tyrannosaurus Rex), The Marauders, The Big Three, Tom Jones, The Righteous Bros, Ned Miller, Solomon Burke, The Mojos, The Moody Blues, Los Bravos, Billie Davis, The Nashville Teens, Goldie & The Gingerbreads, The Alan Price Set, Unit 4 Plus 2, Chris Andrews, Bern Elliott and the Fenmen and Twinkle showed up, much to my delight. I didn’t have a record player, so I took these records over to John Hopson's, 'Chunky' Lang's, James Curry's or Peter Lloyd's where we'd play them endlessly along with their Ronettes, Shangri-Las, Beatles and Dave Clark 5 discs. One night, a group called Them performed 'Here Comes The Night' on Top Of The Pops. Blew me away. I knew Russell would be over in 3 days but it wasn’t soon enough so after school on Friday, I went to Tudor Records in Muswell Hill and it, along with The Yardbirds' 'For Your Love' were the first records I ever laid out cash for. The Yardbirds were on Columbia, through EMI, so there was NO chance Russell would be bringing that one along and if he brought the Them, then I'd just trade it. Soon after, he showed up with a test pressing of the first Them album. To this day, it’s my most played record. Talk about depth...and Van Morrison was only 19 when he recorded it. 'Mystic Eyes', 'Gloria', 'Little Girl', 'Go On Home Baby', 'Bright Lights Big City', 'Route 66', 'Just A Little Bit', 'You Just Can’t Win', 'I Like it Like That'…the record’s packed with great performances of great songs. They made the Stones sound like wannabes and if Van hadn’t always displayed such a miserable personality, they probably would have done a whole lot better. The first album I bought was the Stones’ 'Out Of Our Heads'. I got it at a store near Tottenham Court Road and it got a ton of play on the little mono Dansette-type record player my parents got me for Christmas that year. In 1966 Russell decided to quit Decca because he "couldn’t stand the music they were putting out!" Bah! So now it’s 1970, I’m away at school, slowly building my collection, scoffing at those buying Jethro Tull, The Incredible String Band and Black Sabbath albums and one day Peel plays 'Hamburger Midnight' by an outfit called Little Feat. He mentions Roy Estrada and Lowell George had formed the group and since I’m the only guy I know with 7 Mothers Of Invention albums by that point, I get a little excited. I have to own a copy. Unfortunately Warners decide not to release it in the UK but I learn my first 'import' could be found at a couple of stores in London. A place called Virgin Records had it, and when term finished, the first thing I did was make for an address on Oxford St. Turns out it was a bloody shoe shop and in my desperation I ask a salesperson if they'd heard of Virgin Records. They jerk a thumb to a staircase in a back corner of the store. I climbed a flight of stairs to find a room with a circular couch in the middle of it. 4 or 5 headphones were strewn across it - no 'listening booths' here - and some hippies browsing through the album rack. The smell of hash permeated the place. Most of the albums were unfamiliar to me (unreleased in the UK) and there were several plain white covers with an ink-stamp across the front. Dylan's 'Great White Wonder', 'Blueberry Hill' by Led Zeppelin, and other 'unofficial' albums by The Rolling Stones and Pink Floyd nestled next to one another. Bootlegs. Cost a fortune. Damn, now I had to get a job...get some money coming in.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Spill The Wine

Yesterday, I saw a kid - about 2 1/2, maybe 3 years old - discover music and sex in one afternoon. It was a joy to watch. A bunch of us were at the Lone Sharks' occasional Sunday afternoon Osprey Dominion Vineyard gig. Usually, the show takes place in a tent outside, but this time it had been brought inside because of the thunderstorms. A couple of bottles in, everyone was feeling fine, fine, fine (drinkin' wine, wine, wine).
During the second set, a young couple arrived with their kid who, upon hearing and seeing a live band for the first time, stood wide-eyed, mouth agape, transfixed...mesmerized by the sound. Soon, he began expressing himself the only way he knew how - pumping his toy monkey up and down as if life itself depended on it. Then he spotted a pretty gal, dancing in a
short, purple dress. So, naturally, he ran over, threw his little arms around one of her legs and latched on, grinning. Kid's gonna turn out alright, I think.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

North Fork Sound Top 20 – July 27th ‘08

1. Rubén Blades: Patria
2. Addie Brik: Shade Of Palms
3. Buddy Guy: Show Me The Money
4. Alex Chilton: Bangkok
5. Alabama 3: The Speed of The Sound Of Loneliness
6. Martin Rev: Mari Go Round
7. Robyn Hitchcock: Olé Tarantula
8. 22 Pistepirkko: Angouleme 2036
9. Screaming Jay Hawkins: I Put A Spell On You
10. James Brown: Stone To The Bone
11. Laurel Aiken: Don’t Be Cruel
12. Paul Butterfield Blues Band: In My Own Dream
13. Fred: Damn You Hollywood
14. The Proclaimers: If There’s A God
15. JJ Cale: After Midnight
16. Suicide: Harlem
17. Paul Westerberg: Visitor’s Day
18. Randy Newman: Korean Parents
19. Bo Diddley: I’m High Again
20. Peter C Johnson: I Wanna Be Sedated

Featured Album:
Various Artists: The Return Of Mod Jazz (featuring Mose Allison, Johnny Otis, Red Holloway, TKO, Gene McDaniels, Joe Swift’s Internationals, Hank Jacobs and more…)

The 7” B-side:
Guadalcanal Diary: Kiss Of Fire

Last Week’s Listener Thumbs Ups:
Toots & The Maytals: Sweet And Dandy
Amanda Thorpe: Burn This House Down
? And The Mysterians: 96 Tears
Screamin’ Jay Hawkins: I Put A Spell On You
The Lone Sharks: I Ain’t Dead Yet
Jah Lion: Columbia Colly
The Neville Brothers: With God On Our Side
Th’ Faith Healers: Hippy Hole
Dr. John & The Lower 911: Dream Warrior
The Mooche: Hot Smoke & Sassafras
Spirit: Nature’s Way
MX-80 Sound: Someday You’ll Be King
Ann Peebles: Give Me Some Credit
Tom Waits: Hold On
Martin Newell: Wow, Look At That Old Man

Monday, July 21, 2008

East River String Band w/Robert Crumb & friends

'Tell It To Me'
Pleasure Lounge, Shelter Island
July 8 '08
Eden Brower: ukelele
John Heneghan: guitar, kazoo
Robert Crumb: mandolin
Pat Conte: fiddle
Bob Guida: guitar
Joe Lauro: bass
Andy Burton: accordion

Sunday, July 20, 2008

North Fork Sound Top 20 – July 20th ‘08

1. Frankie Miller: Ann Eliza Jane
2. Delbert McClinton: Hammerhead Stew
3. The Neville Brothers: With God On Our Side
4. The Others: This Strange Effect
5. Thee Flying Carpets: Stoner Chick
6. Ry Cooder: My Dwarf Is Getting Tired
7. Paul Heaton: The Kids These Days
8. Dr. John & The Lower 9/11: Dream Warrior
9. The Records: Starry Eyes (single version)
10. Pete Wingfield: 18 With A Bullet
11. Shirley & Lee: Let The Good Times Roll
12. The Band: Acadian Driftwood
13. Hamell On Trial: Civil Disobedience
14. Johnny Rivers: Over The Line
15. Willie & The Poor Boys: Tear It Up
16. East River String Band: Ain’t No Tellin’
17. Suicide: Keep Your Dreams
18. Jah Lion: Columbia Colly
19. The Otis Brothers: I Will Turn Your Money Green
20. Andy Fairweather Low: Wide Eyed And Legless

Featured Album:
Eli “Paperboy” Reed & The True Loves: Roll With You

The 7” B-side:
Man: Out Of Your Head

Last Week’s Listener Thumbs Ups:
The Ramones: I’m Against It
The Slickers Johnny Too Bad
Cliff Richard: Move It
Björk: Ambergris March
Rodney Crowell: Say You Love Me
Pere Ubu: Final Solution
Paul Westerberg: Dyslexic Heart
Junior Murvin: Roots Train #1
The Ventures: Honky Tonk Pts 1&2
Wreckless Eric: Bone Marrow
The Lone Sharks: Down Along The Cove
Symaryp: Skinhead Moonstomp
Sonic Youth: Kool Thing
Solomon Burkes: Ain’t That Something
James Johnston & Terry Edwards: Driver
Andre Williams: Shake A Tailfeather

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Lou Reed, Rubén Blades

Lou Reed
Long Beach, Long Island

I met Lou Reed at Trident Studios in 1972 when he was recording 'Transformer'. David Bowie produced, Ken Scott engineered and Mick Ronson supplied the beautiful arrangements. By then, I’d progressed from “tea-boy” to “tape-copier” but I was still able to stick my head into the studio occasionally if a session looked interesting. Lou seemed pretty distant much of the time – valium, according to Ken – and occasionally I'd hang out at receptionist Dennis Richardson's desk and we'd watch him (unsteadily) negotiate the stairs between the studio and the control room in his platform shoes, wondering if he’d make the journey without falling over. He generally ignored us lesser Trident staffers and never said a word to me during any of the sessions.
On July 8th 1972, I went to see David play a Save the Whales benefit at the Royal Festival Hall with my friend Liz Arnold, who worked at Liberty/UA Records, a copy-room client. I copied copious Slim Whitman production masters so UA could release them in places like Belgium and Holland. Sometimes, she would slip me an LP or two from the record cabinet. Her boss was U/A's head of a&r, Andrew Lauder and it didn’t take long to figure out I wanted a job exactly like the one he had. Hey, I could read the music papers during by day and see bands at night! I was introduced to the music of Brinsley Schwarz, Man, Help Yourself, The Flaming Groovies, Nektar, Dave Edmunds, Neu!, Amon Düül, Cochise, Johnny Rivers and Eddie Cochran's album work thanks to Andrew and Liz and I’m forever grateful to the both for all the records/cds sent my way throughout the years. I still have them all, except the Cochise album which somebody ‘borrowed’ and never returned.
I’d blagged the Bowie tickets from either Don Hunter or Diana Graham at his management company, which is how we found ourselves sitting next to David’s mum. Most of the show featured songs from Hunky Dory and Ziggy Stardust (which had just been released) but for the first encore, David brought out Lou (in his first UK ‘live’ appearance) to join him on 'White Light/White Heat', 'Waiting For The Man' and 'Sweet Jane'. During on of these, David's Mum tapped me on the arm, leaned over and asked “who’s that weird fellow with all the make-up on?” I had to stifle a laugh, since both of them were caked in the stuff. In October, I went to see Lou at Kingston Poly where he played with his band, The Tots. At this show, I finally ‘got’ Lou and from then on, would try to see him at every opportunity.
Whilst at Elektra, I remember hustling an advance of the ‘New York’ album from Seymour Stein, whose Sire Records office was a couple of floors above mine. I rushed back downstairs with a sense of great anticipation and was about to press ‘play’ when there was a knock on the door and Rubén Blades stepped in. Now, in case you don’t know, Rubén is a remarkable man. While getting his international law degree at Harvard, he made 'Crossover Dreams', which started a distinguished film career acting opposite people like Jack Nicholson, Christopher Walken, Mickey Rourke, Robert Duvall, Bill Murray, Joe Pesci, Gary Busey, Elliott Gould our kind of actors! – and along the way, after starting in the Fania Records mail room, becoming one of the biggest, Grammy-laden stars in the world music world and running for President of Panama on his own Papa Egoro party ticket. He’s a killer performer and I loved working on 5 albums with him. He asked what I was up to and I told him I’d just got the new Lou Reed album – would he like to hear it? “Of course”, he said, so we grabbed a beer from the fridge, put our feet up and played the whole album through without saying a word. At the end, both of us were pretty speechless and thought it was Lou’s best solo album to date.
The year before, Rubén had written and co-produced 2 songs with Lou for his (first, and only) English language album, '
Nothing But The Truth'. While he prepared for its recording - always the multi-tasker - he took a lead role in 'The Milagro Beanfield War' and invited me to Arizona for a couple of days. It was my first time on a film set and Rubén introduced me to Robert Redford and Sonia Braga. Back in his rented apartment he picked up an acoustic guitar and played me a dark and very beautiful version of the Beatles' 'Baby's In Black'. I wish he'd recorded it for the album, but a somewhat changed arrangement showed up later on his 'Amor y Control' album. During rehearsals for the album, I cycled from my apartment on 23rd St. to SIR Studios on the west-side at 25th and as I dismounted, I rang the studio bell. 4 white guys approached and said "give us the bike". I said, "what for" and two of them grabbed it and set off down the street. I ran after them and grabbed the saddle. I don't know why I did that. What was I expecting? That they would apologize and hand it back? Anyway, shortly after, I picked myself up from the middle of the street with a throbbing in the back of my head. There was no one in sight. I went back to the SIR, was let in and went into the studio where the band were. There may have been a little blood on my head and the band stopped mid song and asked if I was ok. When I told them I'd just experienced my first mugging right outside, Rubén and the guys rushed outside to see if they could mete out a little street justice. When I get my cassettes digitized, I’ll playlist the unreleased, up-tempo version of ‘Hopes On Hold’ that Lou produced. I’ll probably not play the voicemail an apoplectic Lou left when I left a message telling him I thought the test pressing sounded dodgy. In the end, my experience as a mastering engineer at Trident paid off and Lou came around after I was able to articulate my problems with the sound of the pressing. A change was made and everybody lived happily ever after. I think he saw I was a record company person who knew what I was talking about - sonically, at least - and all encounters since have been respectful and, often, very friendly. Last time I saw Lou, I was surprised to receive a hug so big right in the middle of Greene Street that, if he hadn’t called me by name, I would have sworn he was mistaking me for someone else. The version of ‘Hopes On Hold’ that did appear on NBTT was a Tommy LiPuma-produced, synth-driven, rather disappointing and now dated, MOR ballad and unfortunately, someone else picked it as the first single. I went out to Long Beach on Long Island to watch the video get made. I never liked music videos much, but I always relished any opportunity to hang out with Rubén. Lou had a small cameo in it and must have been in a great mood because later, he showed a side of his personality I had no idea existed. During the ride back to Manhattan, after the shoot had wrapped, he did about an hour of what could be described as a contemporary ‘Borscht belt-style’ comedy routine that had Rubén, his actress wife, Lisa, Lou’s wife, Sylvia and I howling with laughter all the way home. I have some candid snaps of it – here - but this was one performance I wish I had taped. When he wants to be, Lou’s a hysterically funny guy. Who knew?
Ok, what else? Oh yeah, I got thrown out of a Velvet Underground show. For my birthday in 1993, I treated myself to a (reformed) VU concert at the Olympia, in Paris. Because this show was being filmed, Luna (who were supporting them on the European leg) was asked to sit this one out because their equipment would have gotten in the way of the cameras. Lead loon-er, Dean Wareham and I were given tickets to watch the show from a seat in the balcony, close to the stage. Both of us were feeling pretty, uh, ecstatic and the show was everything I had hoped it would be. At the end of the set, while the band were lined up, arms around each other’s shoulders, bowing and accepting the audience’s love, I took 2 photos with my 3-D camera. Apparently the flashes were enough to attract attention and it wasn’t long before someone grabbed me and marched me backstage, where my film - and the cassette upon which I had recorded the show - were confiscated by their tour manager, who had been kind enough to sort out my ticket in the first place. Talk about humiliating. I was very embarrassed and hoped Lou and John Cale, who played squash at the same Tribeca club where I played racquetball, wouldn’t notice me getting admonished when they came offstage after the encore. I don’t think they did, although I wouldn’t be surprised if they heard about it later. Hey, we all make mistakes. I had a habit of recording shows by people I liked, purely for my own enjoyment, of course. Later that evening, Dean and I found ourselves drinking in a mildly sleazy boîte called La Lily Tigresse, which was the inspiration for his song ‘Tiger Lily’.
The last time I saw Lou was on 9/11. My friend, singer Amanda Thorpe, had recently undergone knee surgery and one of her legs was in a brace necessitating the use of crutches to get around. She lived on Beach Street, way downtown, and that morning the phone rang and she asked if I could turn on the news and tell her what was going on, as she had heard this enormous crash and her tv just gave out static. I switched mine on to see that the world trade center had a huge, smoking hole in it and CNN was reporting that a ‘small’ plane was the cause. As I was telling her this, a second plane hit. Whoa! She asked if she could continue her recuperation for a few days at my apartment and could I come downtown to help her evacuate. “Sure”, so I threw some clothes on and made off for 7th Avenue where I was going to grab a cab, picking up some cigs at the Greek Deli near the corner. In the deli, a television was now reporting that the Pentagon had been hit by something, so it was clear (as if a second plane flying into the WTC wasn’t enough) the US was under attack. There were no cabs to be had, but Amanda’s apartment was close to Franklin Street, just 6 stops below 23rd, so I decided I’d take a train if they were still running and be there in minutes. Didn’t take long for a train to show up so I boarded and looked around. People were reading the paper as they would on any normal day. From conversations I overheard, it seemed like two or three people had heard something but they seemed unconcerned or oblivious to what really was going on as we sped towards the Manhattan's southern tip. When we shot past the Franklin St. stop, I thought I’d ended up on an express train by mistake and when we passed Chambers St, too, I thought something was definitely wrong. Then the train stopped, and stayed still for about 10-15 minutes during which the carriage I was in (towards the back of the train) started to fill with acrid fumes, a smell similar to what you’d get from an electrical fire. A light, blue-ish, thin cloud of smoke seeped through the car. There was nothing anyone could do except hope for the best. The train then spent the next 20 minutes or so shuddering forward, a yard or two at a time, with long breaks between each shudder. The smell of burning slowly dissipated (or we just got used to it) and after about 40 minutes, the train eventually pulled into Fulton St, stopping right at the beginning of the platform. We were instructed to walk through the carriages and exit the train at the front. There was no panic. Everybody, though somewhat weirded out by the whole deal, showed remarkable New York attitude/cool and we filed forward, disembarked, and climbed the stairs to the street. It had been a gorgeous day on 23rd St...sunny, warm, clear, the sky a rich, bright blue, but once we got outside, everything was completely covered in a fine, sandy coloured dust and bits of paper flew around like it was a kind of fucked up ticker-tape parade. Fulton St is approximately 6 or 7 blocks away from where the towers stood and by that time the south tower must have collapsed. People were running in all directions covered in dust, some bleeding, many carrying briefcases over their heads, wearing what was once their smart, work apparel. Everyone on the street looked like the zombies in 'Night Of The Living Dead'. Cops herded us away from the disaster site and soon I was at the South Street Seaport watching crowds crossing the Brooklyn Bridge on foot. I tried calling Amanda but the payphones weren’t working, so I set off on foot, in the direction of her apartment. I worked my way north and then west and had to convince 'security' that I had to get back to my apartment on Beach and after an hour, I got there. Amanda had her suitcase, a backpack and her guitar ready and we slowly walked/hobbled up Greenwich St, stopping into a bar on the way to watch, on tv, what was occurring just a few blocks to the south. Continuing up Washington St, we turned right onto Little West 12th and, just before we got to Pastis there, sitting at a table in the sunshine, nonchalantly drinking coffee with a companion was 'Mr. New York' himself, Lou Reed. An introduction, an exchange of pleasantries and a desire to not intrude made this chance meeting brief, but as we moved on we felt it was a brilliant moment in a ghastly day.
This week, the station’s playing Lou’s 'Endless Cycle', Rubén’s 'The Calm Before The Storm', Britta Phillips and Dean Wareham's 'Ginger Snaps' and Amanda’s 'Burn This House Down' from her brand new album, 'Union Square'.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Robyn Hitchcock

Robyn Hitchcock
The Steven Talkhouse, Amagansett, NY
July 11th '08

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

22 Pistepirkko

The mail brought 3 cds from Finland today - the latest from 22 Pistepirkko, "(Well You Know) Stuff Is Like We Yeah!", their first EP "Ou Wee!" and "Monochromeset" by their cover version alter-egos, The Others which, quite brilliantly, opens with a rare Ray Davies classic "This Strange Effect". Somewhere in the back of my mind, I have a nagging feeling I might have brought this song to their manager, Tiina, a long time ago but don't take my word for it. Those days are hazy and I could be imagining it. I suggested this song to a few people back in the early 90s. Anyway, they do a terrific version (likely to chart next week!) and I'm going to enjoy listening to the rest of the package over the next few days. I once went to Helsinki to see 22P and they were fantastic. Lovely people, too. I did all the usual tourist stuff. Ate venison, drank lager, bought Stones bootlegs. They liked all the right music (Buddy, Beefheart, the blues, the Velvet Underground) and managed to sound like nothing I'd ever heard, then or since. I saw them in Amsterdam (they were good) and when they came to NYC in 91 to play a "Finland Rocks" night at CBGBs for the New Music Seminar, they managed to sound lost and out of place. Somehow that night, they couldn't find the magic and I couldn't persuade Elektra to open the chequebook. Too bad. They've released a series of wonderful records since the late 80's and regular listeners will recognize songs like "Swamp Blues", "Texacoson", "Birdy","Frankenstein", "Don't Play Cello", "Don't Say I'm So Evil", "This Time" and "Rally Of Love" when they hear them. Suicide's Martin Rev told me last month that he did some work on "Swamp Blues" so if anybody out there has a spare copy of their (now deleted) remix album, "Zipcode", let me know how much.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Tom Petty

As Mudcrutch ease their way down the charts and 70s Island Records personnel celebrate a reunion at the Cross Keys in Hammersmith, I’m reminded of the time Tom Petty's debut album landed on my desk there, late in 1976. It only took one play to realize this was a primo rock ‘n’ roll album with no filler at all and, feeling that our recent licensing deal with Shelter Records was about to pay off in a big way, I rushed upstairs to the top floor of 22 St. Peter’s Square, where Island’s big knobs hung out. When they weren’t hanging out behind the canteen, spliffing it up with studio manager, Suzette, that is. I placed the lp in front of general manager, Fred Cantrell, and asked if he’d put it on the schedule as soon as possible please. The following day, he told me that he wasn’t interested in releasing the album and that I should choose 4 songs to stick on an EP instead. Douche! I told him he was making a big mistake, but didn’t push it. Previously, he'd been in sales, and since taking over as general manager, rather fancied himself as talent scout, having recently lumbered us with the pose-y new-wavers that made up Ultravox! Wanna know how they shelved their punk pretensions and became odious Krautrocker wannabes? One of the band was a hairdresser and, while styling members of the band in the upstairs bathroom one evening, they overheard me playing Neu!, Kraftwerk (and quite probably La Düsseldorf) loudly in the office as I often did at before going to the Nashville Rooms, or somesuch, to start my nightly talent crawl. Once they’d finished poofing each other up, they shuffled into the office and asked what I was playing. Shortly after, they were being produced by Connie Plank - only still as ghastly as before, albeit with a different singer and a hit (‘Vienna’). That’s how I remember it, anyway.
I snatched back the Heartbreakers' album and had it biked over to Giovanni Dadomo, (occasional Snivelling Shit and) writer at Sounds, a weekly UK music paper with some influence. The following week, I placed Gio’s 5 star rave on Fred’s desk and waited for the call.
It took about 3 minutes for Fred to change his mind - 3 minutes too long, if you ask me - and he asked me to pick a single. Shelter had released ‘Breakdown’, but I chose something I thought more appropriate for the UK market - 'American Girl' - and we delivered Tom his first ever chart entry (#40) despite the stupid picture of a blonde bimbo on the single sleeve. The album eventually made it to #24. ‘Breakdown’ flopped in the States until it was re-released 6 months later when it became a huge hit.
Petty toured the UK in May, opening for Nils Lofgren and while the band were in London playing Hammersmith Odeon for 3 nights, Tom got some discs made of the new songs he’d recently recorded. I took him to Trident’s cutting room, where he had mixes of 'Listen To Her Heart' and 'I Need To Know' turned into acetates. The thing I remember most about him was that he positively defined the term laid back. So much so, I half expected him to fall asleep in the middle of a sentence. However, his show at Glasgow’s Apollo was just mental. It was my first time in Scotland and the audience was the most rowdy and, frankly, drunk I’d ever seen. It was Tom’s last night opening for Nils and by then, the word was out. Nils had a hard time closing that show.

North Fork Sound Top 20 – July 13th ‘08

1. Captain Beefheart And The Magic Band: Low Yo Yo Stuff
2. Steve Reich: Let The Dream Fall Back On The Dreaded
3. Fleetwood Mac: Albatross
4. Solomon Burke: Ain’t That Something
5. Patto: Singing The Blues On Reds
6. Fleet Foxes: Quiet Houses
7. Drive-By Truckers: Lisa’s Birthday
8. Bob Dylan: Subterranean Homesick Blues
9. Eli ‘Paperboy’ Reed: The Satisfier
10. Bobby Charles: Small Town Talk
11. Jerry Lee Lewis: Great Balls Of Fire (live)
12. Amanda Thorpe: Life Is Great
13. Mick Ronson: Growing Up And I’m Fine
14. Georgia Satellites: Mon Cheri
15. Chuck Berry: The Little Girl From Central
16. Lou Reed: Crazy Feeling
17. Charlie Christian: Profoundly Blue
18. Suicide: Girl
19. Lindisfarne: We Can Swing Together
20. Black Kids: I’m Not Gonna Teach Your Boyfriend How To Dance With You

Featured Album:
Hollybilly – Buddy Holly 1956: The Complete Recordings

The 7” B-side:
Duffy: Loving You

Last Week’s Listener Thumbs Ups:
The Troggs: I Can’t Control Myself
Buddy Holly: Not Fade Away
Fleet Foxes: Sun It Rises
Brian Auger, Julie Driscoll & The Trinity: This Wheel’s On Fire
Killer B’s: Fascinating Bob
Jimmy Liggins & His 3-D Music: Drunk
The Rolling Stones: Live With Me
Lulu: The Boat That I Row
The Ronettes: Be My Baby
Mott The Hoople: Hymn For The Dudes
Sam Cooke: I’ll Come Running Back To You
Roy Montrell: (Every Time I Hear That) Mellow Saxophone
Joey Ramone: What A Wonderful World
The Dirty Mac (feat: John Lennon & Eric Clapton): Yer Blues
Big Al Anderson And The Balls: Drinkin’ On The Weekend
Willie Nile: The Day I Saw Bo Diddley In Washington Square
The Prissteens: The Hound
Willie Nelson & Wynton Marsalis: Bright Lights, Big City
Mike Edison And The Rocket Train Delta Science Arkestra: Space Bop
Roky Erickson & The Aliens: Don’t Shake Me Lucifer
The Star Spangles: Tear It To Pieces Girl
Dr. Feelgood: She’s A Windup

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Gimme Shelter Island

Tuesday, Smugglin' Johnny C and I witnessed a stellar evening of American roots music on Shelter Island at Joe Lauro's spectacular Pleasure Lounge. Located in a barn behind his house, it's the coolest place on the island, hands down. Ancient posters featuring the Ventures, Pigmeat Markham, the Carter Sisters, Bill Black's Combo, Johnny Horton, and Ernie K-Doe
shared wall space with beer-bottle caps, old license plates, photos of Fats Domino and Robert Johnson, Nat King Cole and Johnny Cash album covers and even a Max Bialystock office plaque prop from "The Producers", fer heaven's sake! The place is genius, and now I want my own barn. Tonight's poster had been designed by Robert Crumb and everything was aligned for the evening to be a bit special. It was. I'd not heard the East River String Band before but it wasn't long before John (guitar, voice) and Eden (ukelele, voice) were treating us to some 20s & 30s folk-blues songs culled from John's enormous collection of 78s. Tunes like Skip James' 'Crow Jane', Memphis Minnie's 'My Chauffeur', Charlie Patton's 'Screamin' & Hollerin'', Mississippi John Hurt's 'Ain't No Tellin'' & Blind Lemon Jefferson's 'One Dime Blues' should give you an idea of what they're about. Oh, and let's not leave out Pigmeat Pete and Catjuice Charlie's 'On Our Turpentine Farm' either. Robert Crumb joined 'em to strum some mandolin, then the Sharks' Joe Lauro (upright bass) and Andy Burton (accordion) and the Otis Brothers (Bob Guida, guitar & Pat Conte, banjo, fiddle) stepped up to fill out the sound beautifully and suddenly the night got magic. I hadn't planned to film the gig - if anything, maybe a tune or two by the Sharks or get a Crumb ID, but I used up most of my tape because this seemed like it had to be documented, however haphazardly (no tripod, and filmed from the the balcony on the right). They were fantastic and I hope Joe brings 'em back soon. I've not yet had the good fortune to experience one of Levon Helm's Midnight Rambles, but I'd bet the vibe is exactly the same.

East River String Band
the Pleasure Lounge, Shelter Island, NY
July 8th '08

As the Otis Bros got ready for their own set, I ran into John & Eden out back and they were generous enough to give me a copy of their album (on cd AND vinyl). I promised them a dvd of the footage I shot and. They did an ID for NoFoSo, and I asked John if he thought Mr. Crumb might do the same but he told me that Robert didn't like cameras, or doing 'that sort of thing'. I know he's kind of reclusive, so I thought 'fair enough' and gave him some space....which he used admirably by being given a piggy-back ride out behind the barn by a spunky young lass in a polka dot dress who obviously knew about some of his predilections. The Otis Brothers are two guys from Queens and all I'd heard about them was they (too) collected 78 rpm records. Everybody here seemed to have huge 78rpm collections! I'm not sure how the OB's like to be described, but country blues with a spiritual edge might not be too far off. Thoughts of Mississippi juke joints surfaced and by the time they did Paul 'Wine' Jones' "Pucker Up, Buttercup" they had the audience in their hands.
After a short break, the Lone Sharks hit the stage, blasted into "The In-Crowd" and tore the place apart. Now I'm up to 7 Sharks sightings, and this was by far the best. GREAT versions of Johnny 'Burnette's Tear It Up', Bo Diddley's 'Dearest Darling', and their own 'Bad Baby' and the catchy 'Gone Hollywood' from the new alb went by in a flash and next thing I knew, we had to catch the last ferry. It was a drag leaving but neither of us felt like driving the extra 50 miles, so we put blasted Johnny's newly acquired Otis Brothers cd and set off. On the ferry, Johnny saw Pat Conte up front, so we went to pay our respects and Pat told us he had 50,000 78s in his basement and once had a radio show - The Secret Museum - on WBAI and WFMU. He was fascinating, telling us about 78s he had from all over the world. Who knew they made 78s in Africa? Or knows about Albert Richardson who recorded in the late 20's on Britain's Zonophone label? I sure didn't. Graciously, he did an ID for the station and then the ferry pulled into Greenport. I could have used another couple of hours with him. A perfect night.

The Lone Sharks
'tear it up' at the Pleasure Lounge, Shelter Island, July 9th 08

Sunday, July 6, 2008

The Georgia Satellites

The Georgia Satellites
Mauro Magellan, Rick Price, Rick Richards, Dan Baird
photo: Gwendolen Cates

By the mid-80s, NYC's New Music Seminar and Austin's South By Southwest were reasonably successful music biz conventions dedicated (mostly) to showcasing loads of 'fresh', new talent to record labels' a&r departments too lazy to scout the clubs every night. Since Nashville was 'Music City', after all, it decided to get in on the act and position itself as a viable source for 'alternative' acts, too - alternative to country, at least. So I went to have a look and found myself traipsing between 4 or 5 clubs checking out a dozen artists - give or take - over a couple of nights. Kevin Patrick was also there and both of us felt we'd have done far better just sittin' in Tootsie's Orchid Lounge drinking Jack listening to someone murder Mickey Newbury, which I experienced once. I didn't know whether to cheer, cry or commit grievous bodily harm. Still, an up-&-coming attorney in town, Jim Zumwalt, managed to talk us into taking a meeting at the offices of Praxis Management where Andy McLenon and Jack Emerson played us some tracks by a 'new' band from Atlanta, the Georgia Satellites. As we listened, both of us kept our true feelings to ourselves, but it was clear this was the best thing we'd heard in quite a while, let alone the last couple of days. Jack and Andy were good people, huge fans of good music and also managed Jason & The Scorchers so the meeting was very positive and we left with a 4 or 5 song tape, thinking we could easily work with these guys. Might even be fun. The tape - which we later discovered were demos released in the UK on Yorkshire indy, Making Waves as 'Keep The Faith' - showed a band, influenced by the Stones and the Faces, performing some decent songs very well indeed. They had a distinctive sound and a tried and tested style that worked for us, despite (or because of) its lack of originality. Every time Kevin and I played the tape, it made us feel good and sometimes ya gotta do something because it just feels right. Besides, trying to do something different all the time made the Monday morning VP meetings with the promo and marketing departments just a little tense sometimes. Mostly, they weren't really interested in trying to move music forward, they just wanted to get it played. Album radio in America is, with a few exceptions, conservative and boring. When I delivered the first 10,000 Maniacs album, someone high up in the promo dept. told me, "don't give us this hippy shit, give us more stuff like Dokken and Mötley Crüe". So this should be no problem, then...

I asked Kevin if he'd check
the Sats out 'live' and a couple of weeks later, he told me 'they were basically a tremendous bar band who could do solid Savoy Brown-type business in the midwest, where radio - and its audience - couldn't give a crap about much of the, uh, modern stuff we (and a couple of labels) were trying to push. He suggested I see them as soon as possible. It would be a lot easier to get Bob Krasnow's approval if we both wanted this one. I think the show I saw was at a club in Atlanta called Hedgens and I remember it was really loud and they ROCKED the joint. Apparently, they were the 'house band' there. They were utterly fantastic, and I felt I was in some glorious time warp where the likes of the whingeing REM or the puffed-up U2 didn't exist. I came home thinking Kevin and I should do this one together. He'd been at Elektra maybe a year and was working with a Marietta, GA band, Guadalcanal Diary, so it made sense economically.Not that that really made much difference in those heady, extravagant, expensed days. Elektra (now Elektra Entertainment, no longer Elektra Records) was on the verge of a new phase but apart from Howard Jones, Shalamar, Motley Crüe, the Cars, Teddy Pendergrass and the odd one-off (Peter Schilling) it still relied largely on the Eagles and the Doors to make its numbers, so when the band and management chose us over Patrick Clifford at Epic Records - the only other company interested - it felt like, finally, Elektra was back in the game. Due to some previous commitment, the band wound up with Jeff Glixman (Kansas! Paul Stanley!!) in the producer's chair (he'd done the 'demo' and was probably owed the album if a deal was secured) and he delivered an album that, despite the monstrous 80s drum sound, sounds as fantastic today as it did blaring from my office at the time, much to the bemusement of the international department, who had to slam their door to get some work done, or just come in, relax, grab a beer from the fridge.
It's weird to think about it now, but I remember there was much discussion as to what should be the first single. Should we appease rock radio and go with Railroad Steel? What about the hooky Battleship Chains? In the end, head of promotion, Mike Bone, insisted it should be 'Keep Your Hands To Yourself' and suddenly the Satellites were all over the place, playing 5 different clubs in one week in New York City, with a 'breakthrough' video on MTV, an MTV New Year's show appearance, a tour with Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, a ton of European dates including the Montreux 'Jazz' Festival, the Reading Festival ('87) and practically single-handedly bringing rock&roll back to the airwaves.
'Keep Your Hands...' wound up at #2 on the Billboard pop charts and the follow-up, the fantastic 'Battleship Chains', did pretty well for them as well, especially in Europe.
The Georgia Satellites
w/Joey Ramone, ht, Kevin Patrick, Lisa Levine, WCMF's Candi Clarke & Roger McCall, Monte Melnick

Manhattan Center, NYC
, 12/31/86
photo: Corinne Atias

In Dan Baird, the Satellites had a tremendous singer, a fierce guitarist and songwriter whose knack for a lick, a hook and a clever couplet filled their albums with rock & roll classics you could dance to, bang your head at and grin with. His sense of humour was never so prevalent as in 'Mon Cheri' when he sings
Well I introduced myself and I said "Nice night for a walk"
But I couldn't understand a thing she said when she talked
And I said "Honey, let's get something straight between you and me"
Well that's when she sat herself down over on a park bench
And her skirt rode up and I could see she was French
And my heart said "toujours l'amour avec mon amie"

Chuck Berry
couldn't have said it better. When he could be bothered, guitarist Rick Richards penned some terrific rockers too. Here, rock 'n' roll itself is personified in another Mr. Richards, and his 'Can't Stand The Pain' shows what a great a slide player he is. 'Hand To Mouth' is a killer tune and when Rick came over, excellent times were had, if you get my drift. I tried to get him to write more, but Rick moves at his own pace. The band's cover choices - Ringo's 'Don't Pass Me By' (they didn't feel they could do justice to Lennon/ McCartney, so it fell to Ringo and it was between Octopus's Garden or this, so...) the Velvet's 'Waiting For The Man', Joe South's 'Games People Play', Eddie Cochran's 'Somethin' Else', Chuck's 'Let It Rock', Chan Romero's 'Hippy Hippy Shake', Rod Stewart and Ronnie Wood's 'Every Picture Tells A Story', Jerry Lee's 'Whole Lotta Shakin'' and the Jimmy Gray-penned George Jones hit, 'The Race Is On' display a righteous sensibility and the fact that these guys lived to 'play' made this particular signing a solid favourite. There's really nothing like a musician who just wants to play. Furthermore, the band's success was a big "f*** y'all" to those who said we'd never get music like this on the radio again. And there were MANY.

invite to 'platinum' party
courtesy: Kevin Patrick

So props to Bone and his team for doing such a great job and getting some decent music back on the radio. The second album, 'Open All Night' had Ian McLagan guest on it and the band were really stoked about that. During a mix playback, however, I remember mentioning the colossal, processed drum sound was way too over the top and this caused a big stink. Relations got strained for a while. Glixman got all sulky and I was forced to back down. I should have fired him. Then those first two records could have been timeless.

These days, Dan releases solo albums and tours with NoFoSo faves the Yayhoos. Drummer Mauro Magellan records occasionally with Dan, plays locally with Wisconsin's the Crashers and has a successful career illustrating books. When Rick Richards isn't out with Izzy Stradlin's JuJu Hounds, he and bassist Rick Price play as the Satellites with Todd Johnston in the drum stool. Nearly 24 years later, I'm happy to say all four guys still play music for people and that makes me feel good.

Dan Baird, Rick Richards
Ardent Studios, Memphis '89
Slideshow here:

North Fork Sound Top 20 – July 6th ‘08

1. Randy Newman: A Few Words
2. John Coltrane: Central Park West
3. Little Richard: Rip It Up
4. Aswad: Ways Of The Lord
5. Mott The Hoople: Hymn For The Dudes
6. Gene Casey & The Lone Sharks: It Should Rain
7. Brian Auger, Julie Driscoll & The Trinity: This Wheel’s On Fire
8. Gil Evans Orchestra: Sister Sadie
9. Lorraine Ellison: I’ll Be Home
10. Elvis Presley: T-R-O-U-B-L-E
11. Nick Lowe: Lately I’ve Let Things Slide
12. Joey Ramone: Wonderful World
13. Little Feat: Hamburger Midnight
14. Jon Cleary: More Hipper
15. The Ronettes: Be My Baby
16. Ray Davies: Imaginary Man
17. John Lydon: Sun
18. Keith Gemmell: Whoo-Hoo
19. Suicide: Johnny
20. Toots & The Maytals: I Gotta Woman

Featured Album:

'The Specialty Story', featuring tracks by Little Richard, Jimmy Liggins, Larry Williams, Lloyd Price, Percy Mayfield, Roy Montrell, Sam Cooke, Tony Allen & The Champs and more

The 7” B-side:
Wreckless Eric: I Wish It Would Rain

Last Week’s Listener Thumbs Ups:

Johnny Otis Show: High Heeled Sneakers
Gene Casey & The Lone Sharks: Who’s Sharing The Moon
Wreckless Eric: A Pop Song
Amy Allison: Turn Out The Lights
Booker T & The MGs (w/Neil Young): (Sittin’ On) The Dock Of The Bay
Audience: House On The Hill
Gladys Knight & The Pips: Alaskan Pipeline
Ike & Tina Turner: Nutbush City Limits
Mary Gauthier: Last Of The Hobo Kings
Pink Fairies: Waiting For The Man
The Star Spangles: Gangland
Wayne County And The Backstreet Boys: Max’s Kansas City
Wreckless Eric: A Pop Song
Pretty Things: Vivian Prince