Celebrating Charlie Watts : Certainty in an uncertain world – Get off my Cloud!

All around it seems like anything can happen including so many things we thought could never happen.

Ice caps melting.

Tornadoes and typhoons out of nowhere.

Forest fire raging, raging, raging.

High water everywhere.

Is there nothing you can absolutely rely on?

Well, a glance at today’s calendar reminded me that the great Charlie Watts was born on June 2nd 1941 and is thus now 78 years old.

And, while, who knows, the Pyramids may tumble tomorrow there can be no doubt that when The Rolling Stones Hit the stage in Chicago in June they and everyone in the audience can be sure of one thing – the majesty of The Stones Sound will be founded on the utter reliability of Charlie Watt’s glorious drumming.

So, I am reblogging my tribute from the very earliest days of The Jukebox (with a birthday bonus track).

Happy Birthday Charlie!

Charlie Watts, gentleman, scholar and drummer at large was 73 this year. Here’s a short tribute.

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Famously, at the live show captured on Get Your Ya Yas Out Mick Jagger informs the patrons that,’Charlie’s good tonight ain’t he!’. Well yes Mick he certainly was and then some.

Charlie Watts has been the heartbeat of the Rolling Stones for half a century and more providing calm craft in the midst of all the hoopla and madness.

While he has surely seen about everything a man can see he has remained steadfastly and stoically himself.

A wry, unimpressable observer who loves to listen to his beloved jazz and play the drums with the scratchy rhythm and blues band who somewhat to his amazement transformed themselves into the greatest rock and roll band the planet has ever produced.

Charlie’s role in the band is crucial to the DNA of the band’s unique sound.

Keith is released to sway and swagger to his heart’s content because Charlie is always there behind him urging him on and on while being ready to catch him if like an over ambitious trapeze flyer it looks like he might fall.

Whatever else has changed that partnership has endured and thrived through the years ensuring the distinctive leery vitality of the band remains in rude good health

One of the many glories of the Stones is the majestic way in which they build and hold tension in their rockers – say Tumbling Dice or Brown Sugar.

You’ll notice how groups covering the Stones almost always rush and ruin the songs because they can’t match the rhythmic control marshalled by Charlie.

While he is the engineer driving the awesome power of the Stones streamliner in full flight he is also the brakeman making sure they make it round the sharp turns safely and arrive on time at their destination.

The listening audience are taken up, held and thrilled as the band, anchored by Charlie, progress through their set taking care to pace themselves – allowing ballad breaks before the celebrated avalanche ending sends everybody home exhausted and elated.

Charlie Watts is the zen master of rock drumming.

His inherent restraint, informed by the jazz heritage he so treasures, allows him to play what needs to be played and nothing more.

He is at the service of the music, the sound and the dynamic shape of the individual song. No band has been better served by its drummer than the Rolling Stones.

So, as the Rolling Stones embark on one more last hurrah Charlie will endure the travelling, the media and the endless waiting for the wonderful pleasures of those few hours on stage when he can just play the music along with his faithful companions of so many years.

Charlie was fabulous in the 1960s, fantastic in the 1970s,  fervour filled in the 1980s and 1990s and  unflashily fluent in the new milenium.

Things will be no different in 2019.

So, if you’re in the audience make sure that you really put your hands together for the drummer!

George Harrison, James Ray : Got My Mind Set on You

‘It’s gonna take time, a whole lot of precious time ….’ (Rudy Clark/James Ray)

‘A true message always gets through – sometimes it just takes a while’ (Immortal Jukebox)

On 7 February 1964 Pan Am Flight 101 took off from London’s Heathrow Airport bound for New York City.

Thousands of young women, barely controlled by massed ranks of British Bobbies in blue, screamed and sobbed as the plane took off.

For this was no ordinary flight.

No, for Pan Am 101 was carrying a very special group of passengers whose arrival in America that day would change the course of History.

Those passengers were John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr – The Beatles!

When they touched down at JFK they were greeted by scenes of pandemonium as fans and the media pushed and shoved to get their first glimpse of the Fab Four.

The ‘British Invasion’ had begun and from that day on for the rest of the decade there was no question about who the most popular and successful group in the world was and who were the most famous and instantly recognisable faces on the entire planet.

But, before an invasion there is usually a reconnaissance.

You send a scout ahead.

And, for The Beatles, the scout was George Harrison.

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For though The Beatles didn’t land on the soil of the Promised Land until February 1964 George had spent two weeks there in September 1963.

How come?

Well, George was the youngest of the three Harrison siblings.

Brother Peter was three years older than George but Sister Louise was 12 years older and long before The Beatles were even a madcap dream in the minds of John and Paul she had left the grim austerity of post War Liverpool to travel the world with her mining engineer husband.

And, in September 1963, she was living at 113 McCann Street, Benton, Illinois a coal town with a population of under 10, 000 souls.

After the release of ‘She Loves You’ in Britain in August 1963 Brain Epstein decided that in view of the immense workload they had already completed and the even more taxing plans he had for their future it was time The Beatles took a break.

John went to Paris while Paul and Ringo jetted off to Greece.

George, with brother Peter, went to Benton to visit Louise, arriving there on September 16th.

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His time in Benton would be for George, as Paris and Greece would be for his fellow Beatles, the last time they could ever walk the streets of any town or city without being instantly recognised and/or mobbed.

George would always remember his first, incognito, exposure to American culture and wonder at the freedom of being able to wander at will wherever he pleased.

On that trip he bought a Rickenbacker at the Fenton Music Store at 601 South 10th Street, Mt Vernon, IL for $400.

He would play this on the pioneering UK TV Show, Ready, Steady, Go’ on 4 October.

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Along with Louise he hitchhiked to Radio Station WFRX and presented them with a mint copy of, ‘She Loves You’.

He also hooked up with a guy called Gabe McCarty a member of a local group called the Four Vests and on 28 September George took the stage with them at The Veterans Hall in Eldorado.

The patrons that night were the first Americans to hear George rip into, ‘Johnny B Goode’, ‘Matchbox’ and ‘Roll Over Beethoven’.

George flew back to England on October 3rd.

In his luggage, along with the precious Rickenbacker, was more treasure in the form of vinyl.

George, a true fan of music as well as a musician, had haunted the record stores in Illinois and NYC looking for gems that were hard to find at home.

No one in the stores had ever heard of The Beatles but the shelves groaned with records that George had only ever read about in magazines or heard about from American musicians he had met in Hamburg.

He bought a lot of premium Blues and R&B sides by the likes of Booker T and the MGs and Bobby Bland.

His eye was particularly caught by an LP bearing the name of James Ray on the Caprice Label.

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He knew the name because The Beatles had been regularly featuring Ray’s hauntingly other-worldly, ‘If You Gotta Make a Fool of Somebody’ since Paul had found a copy at Brian Epstein’s NEMS Record Shop.

Spinning the platter back at 113 McCann he became especially fond of one track in particular – ‘I’ve Got My Mind Set On You’ and his love and admiration for the song would survive the madness of Beatlemania and the glory days of his solo career.

George could instantly recognise that there was a keening, spiritual, quality in James’ voice that gave a profound allure to everything he sang.

Sing it James!

 

The song was written by Rudy Clark who had written, ‘If You Gotta ..’ and would go on to write, ‘Good Lovin’, ‘Its in His Kiss’, and, ‘Everybody plays The Fool’ among other Hits.

The, ‘Let’s try everything we can think of’ arrangement was by Hutch Davie who had played the piano on, ‘Green Door’ and arranged Santo & Johnny’s wonderful guitar instrumental, ‘Sleepwalk’.

What lifts the track beyond a novelty of its time is James Rays’ stunning vocal.

James can really sing.

There is a yearning, as long as I’m singing this song I can make it through, quality to James’ voice which makes me hit the repeat button repeatedly every time I play any side he ever cut (and tragically there are probably less than 30).

You get the sense that there are ghosts hovering round James whispering secrets from beyond the veil and that James can’t help but hear even though he knows those voices are calling him to follow to the lands across the Styx.

We know so little about this wonderful artist.

It seems he was born James Ray Raymond in Washington D.C in 1941 and that he served some time in the Military.

He first appears on record in 1959 as, ‘Little Jimmy Ray’ (he was all of 5ft tall on tip toe) but it is not until he hooked up with Rudy Clark and Gerry Granahan at Caprice Records that he made anything that stirred the airwaves or set the nickels flowing on The Jukeboxes.

‘If You Gotta Make a Fool of Somebody’ has been recorded by Aretha Franklin, Bonnie Raitt, Ben E King, Lou Rawls and Bobby Gentry – superb artists all – yet not one of them has approached the spectral grace of James’ version (I plan to write a dedicated Post on the song later this year).

It seems that James had a drug problem and that when he was, ‘discovered’ by Rudy Clark he was homeless and finding such shelter as he could on apartment block rooftops.

He only recorded one LP and even the date and place of his death and where he is buried are unknown.

It seems likely that he was already dead when The Beatles landed at JFK.

In a business filled with tragic tales James’ tale is among the most tragic.

Yet, thanks to George Harrison and the other luminaries his name lives on at least for those who read sleeve notes and song writing credits.

George recorded his take on  ‘I’ve Got My Mind Set On You’ some 24 years after he first encountered it back in Benton.

His version is considerably more upbeat in tone than James’.

The song was recorded in George’s home studio within Friary Park his 120 room neo-gothic mansion.

Stellar musicians like Jim Keltner on Drums and Jim Horn on Saxophone feature on a characteristically multi layered production by Jeff Lynne who also provides creamy backing vocals.

This record is very much a 1980s record with a big sound that along with the winning video demolished all hesitation in the record buying public.

A Number One Hit!

It is not inconceivable that many seeing the song on MTV did not know this George Harrison fellow’s History!

Certainly not one in 10,000 who bought the record knew anything about James Ray.

But George did and I can’t help but think he had a thought for James as he recorded it and when he played it live.

 

 

Talking of live action here’s George giving the song the full lash in Japan backed by Eric Clapton’s ensemble.

Now, I love George’s version but it’s not the one I sometimes wake up singing.

No, it’s James Ray’s version which lingers like morning mist in my imagination.

James Ray’s voice was stilled some sad day in the mid 1960s but the eerie sound of his voice will always echo on and on.

Sing it James.

 

Notes and Call for Information!

There’s an excellent website toppermost,co.uk (Twitter @AgeingRaver) which publishes highly informative and entertaining top 10s on many artists beloved by The Jukebox.

The entry on James Ray written by the learned Dave Stephens (Twitter @DangerousDaveXX) is excellent.

The only CD I can find for James Ray is, ‘If You Gotta Make A Fool Of Somebody – Golden Classics’ on the Gotham Label. Only 12 tracks and poorly presented but every track demands your attention.

If anyone knows anything more about James Ray’s life and death please let me know.

Also there’s surely a great documentary to be made about George’s time in Benton and about the fellow passengers on Pan Am 101 – again anyone who has any stories let me know!

The Kinks : Waterloo Sunset – An Unfading Glory!

 

I woke up this holiday weekend to the sound of magnificent birds hosannaing the dawn.

As the coffee brewed I switched on my radio and learned that 52 years ago to the day The  Kinks released what will always be my favourite 45rpm single of all time.

The cultural historians of a thousand years hence will without question point to this Ray Davies masterpiece when they want to demonstrate the beauty those 1960s troubadours were capable of achieving.

So, today, 52 years on, The Jukebox punches once again the button and the unfading glory that is Waterloo Sunset floods the heart, mind and spirit with light and hope.

Ray Davies said :

It’s about how innocence will prevail over adversity. It starts out delicate, but by the end has become awesome in its power. Those triumphant chords come in, and the angels tell you everything is going to be OK”.

Everything is going to be OK.

And, that’s a message that will always be welcome.

All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.

Thank you Ray and God Bless The Kinks!

 

‘The most beautiful song in the English language’ (Robert Christgau)

‘Divine … a masterpiece’ (Pete Townsend)

‘As long as I gaze on Waterloo sunset I am in paradise’ (Ray Davies)

A song about : London, The River, A Lonely Man and Two Lovers by A Great Songwriter leading a great Group.

The Voice of London:

It is, of course, a song about London.

Londinium. The Capital. The Big Smoke.

Now, there are other fine cities on other great rivers in this nation.

But, but, there is only one London.

And, if you want to find out who you are, not who you’ve been told you are, and how far you can go – well then, London, London, is the place to be.

Nowhere else. Nowhere else.

Kings and Conquerors. Poets and Peasants. Saints, Sinners and Scholars.

Those looking for the limelight and others looking to hide out – they’re all drawn to London.

Thinkers and Tinkers. Songwriters and Singers.

Look around! They’re all here.

All here telling stories. Making dramas.

Tired of London, tired of life.

Come for joy, jasper of jocunditie.

Come for a mighty mass of brick and smoke and shipping.

Treasures in its depths.

Confront your counterparts – hero or villain, mountebank or mystic.

Find yourself. Get lost.

Work, work, work or lounge and idle away your days.

All around you beautiful idiots and brilliant lunatics and the one, the one, just waiting for you.

For you.

Ray Davies. A watchful London boy who became a watchful London man and artist.

Alive to all the sights and sounds and atmospheres on the breeze, in the fog, in the streets and alleyways of his home town.

Watching the people. Watching the taxi lights shine so bright.

Aware of the lovers meeting on Friday night and the lonely friendless souls in the chilly, chilly, evening time.

Aware of the dirty old river flowing, flowing into the night.

Aware that the same world can be frightening and a paradise at the same time – it all depends where you are standing and what you see.

Lovers finding each other and finding themselves.

Making plans to stay. Making plans to leave.

Somewhere they’ll be safe and sound. Together.

Millions swarming round Waterloo Underground.

Every one with a story.

Every one dizzy with the possibilities of London Town.

Every one looking to be found and to be safe and sound as the chilly, chilly, evening descends.

Every one feeling London, London, all around them.

Day flows into night. Spring flows into Summer. Summer flows into Autumn and on and on, always, into Winter.

Chilly, chilly, is evening time.

But, but, look up, look around!

Gaze out on the Sunset.

The Waterloo Sunset.

Bathing London in balm.

Flooding the heart and soul with feeling.

A Feeling more powerful than all your fears.

As long as Londoners can gaze out on Waterloo Sunset they are in paradise.

Paradise. Paradise.

It is, of course, a Song about London.

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The Voice of The River:

It is, of course, a Song about The River.

The Thames. Father Thames.

Rivers make Cities. Before the City there’s always The River.

Flowing through the ages. Flowing, flowing through time.

Carving out the landscape.

Liquid History. Liquid History.

Long before London, millennia before London, the River flowed.

The dark waters of River flow by the bridges and the burial grounds.

Past the wharfs and the jetties.

Past the piers and the palaces.

The River flows on when the roads are blocked.

The River flows on as the houses crumble into dust when the bombs fall.

The River flows on as the Romans arrrve and leave.

As the Vikings arrive and leave.

As Kings build palaces to rule for evermore.

As parliaments of men and women overthrow the divine right of monarchs.

They build walls round cities.

The River flows on. Free.

When the fires burn and the earth buckles and splits turn to The River.

The River will always flow on as long as the world turns.

Come to the River. Come to the River.

Mystics and Mudllarks.

Poets and Pirates.

Novelists and Ne’er do Wells.

Songwriters and Singers.

I will flow through your heart and soul.

I will fill your imagination to the brim.

Turner and Canaletto. Monet and Whistler. Stanley Spencer.

River Painters. Haunted by waters.

Humans are haunted by waters.

Haunted.

Dickens and Kenneth Grahame. Pepys and Conrad.

Wordsworth and Eliot.

River Writers. River Writers.

The River glideth at its own sweet will.

The River sweats oil and tar.

Stand by the River.

As the chilly, chilly, evening descends.

Look around. Look at your life.

Wipe your eyes. Wipe your eyes.

Try not to notice you’ve fallen in love (or out of love).

Breathe. Breathe.

Ray Davies. Looking out on the River from the terraces of St Thomas’ Hospital when he was just 13.

Watching the River flow. Flowing on through the day into the night.

Watching the yellow fog settle over the River’s dark waters.

The River.

Always the same. Always different. Like his life.

A River he walked by waiting to become the artist he knew he was.

The River he walked by with melodies and words dancing in his head.

The River he walked by making plans for a future for himself, his wife and his family.

Walking, dreaming, by those dark waters.

Watching the River flowing, flowing, flowing.

Watching the lights reflected in the River’s dark waters.

Watching Lovers crossing over the River.

Looking for somewhere to be safe and sound.

Watching the Lovers looking deep into the dark waters looking for a glimpse of their future together.

Watching Lovers seeking the River’s blessing.

Watching the friendless lonely souls gazing out over the River.

Watching the millions of souls emerging from Waterloo Underground waiting to cross The River.

Watching them turn up their collars against the chilly, chilly, evening time as the wind blows in off the River.

Watching them look deep into the dark waters looking for an answer to questions too secret to ask out loud.

Watching them watching the River flow on. Flow on.

Watching the Sunset, the Waterloo Sunset, sink over the River.

Flooding the heart and soul with golden light.

The River flows on through Spring and Summer into Autumn and on and on, always into Winter.

Chilly, Chilly, is evening time.

But, but, stand by The River.

As the dark waters flow look into the sunset.

The Waterloo Sunset.

Bathing The River in balm.

Flooding, flooding, the heart and soul with feeling.

A feeling more powerful than all your fears.

As long as you can stand by the River and those dark waters and gaze out on Waterloo Sunset you are in paradise.

Paradise. Paradise.

It is, of course, a Song about The River.

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The Voice of a Lonely Man:

It is, of course, a Song of a Lonely Man.

I’m a Londoner all my life. I’ve lived by The River all my life.

Seventy five years.

1967 now.

I was born in the 1800’s!

London and The River. Always the same. Always different.

London, The River and me. We’ve been through a lot.

We’ve seen two World Wars. I fought in the First one.

They call that The Great War. I lost a lot of pals, London pals.

Men who worked on the River with me.

It can make you lonely thinking of them.

Sometimes, as the chilly evening descends and I look into the dark waters of the River I think I can see them still, as they were, young men with bright smiles, bright smiles, making plans for after the War.

War teaches you that God laughs at your plans.

War teaches you fear and teaches you friends can lose their heartbeat in one of yours.

London was a hard old place in the 1930s.

Depression. They called it the Great Depression.

No work. For year after year after year.

Amazing we didn’t have a Revolution.

Still, somehow we got through.

I met Daisy, my wife, walking across Waterloo Bridge.

We were both looking down into the dark waters.

Watching the River flow on into the night.

Watching the taxi lights shining as the chilly evening descended.

I suppose we were both lost until we found each other.

Then, suddenly, we were safe and sound.

When we were courting (no one uses that word anymore!) we used to meet every Friday night at Waterloo Station.

There must be millions, millions, passing through there every day.

Funny though, as soon as I saw Daisy it always seemed as if they was just the two of us.

Safe and sound together.

Together, we didn’t need no friends and no matter how dark the times or chilly the evening we didn’t feel afraid.

We had each other.

Until the Second War.

A bomb can fall out of the sky and in a heartbeat your heart is broken and never the same again.

Never the same.

I did my best with the Nipper. But a girl, especially, needs a Mother.

She went out to Australia on one of those Assisted Passages.

A Tenner taking you tens of thousands of miles!

I get a card at Christmas and she says she’ll visit in a year or so.

Maybe, she’ll get married and I’ll be a Grandfather. I’d like that.

They say I’m lucky to have a flat in this block.

I preferred it when you had a garden and streets on the ground not in the sky.

Especially when the lifts break down.

One thing I will say. You get fantastic views out the window from the tenth floor.

I like listening to the radio and watching the football on the TV.

But mainly I like to look at the world from my window. From my window.

There’s a lot going on if you take the time to look.

The River keeps on flowing.

Always the same always different.

Something to do with the way it reflects to the light.

It’s a dirty old River. Oil and tar. But, it’s my River.

They say this Clean Air Act will have it sparkling again – alive with Fish.

Not sure I will be around for that day.

People are so busy these days.

They must make themselves dizzy rushing about.

Never time to stop and stare or to say hello to an old man looking into the dark waters of the River.

I like it when the chilly evening descends.

The taxi lights shine bright and somehow people look well in the dark.

I’ve noticed a couple meeting every Friday night just like me and Daisy did.

I call them Terry and Julie after that song on the radio about the Sunset.

Waterloo Sunset.

I don’t know much about this beat music but the chap who wrote that song knows a lot about London and The River and Love and Loneliness.

It’s a song that has happiness and sadness running right through it like a river.

You can tell they love each other and that they feel safe and sound when they’re together.

I stay home at night. But I don’t feel feel afraid.

I don’t need no friends anymore.

I got my memories.

And, no matter how chilly the evening there’s warmth in the Sunset.

So I am safe and sound.

And, I know that today will flow on into tomorrow and that Spring will flow into Summer and on into Autumn and always, always into Winter.

Of course the evening is chilly.

But, looking out my window I can gaze on the Sunset.

Friends or no friends.

I gaze on the Sunset.

The Waterloo Sunset.

And, somehow, that Sunset is more powerful than any fear.

As long as I can gaze out on Waterloo Sunset I am in paradise.

Paradise. Paradise.

That song. Well, of course, it’s about a Lonely Man.

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The Voice of Two Lovers:

Well, of course, it’s a Song about two Lovers. Us.

What else could it be about?

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When you’re in love the River flows and the chilly evening and dark waters are your friends.

Terry and Julie. Our names just sound right together.

We meet every Friday night at Waterloo Underground.

Sometimes we just walk across the bridge.

Have a drink by the River and watch the Sunset.

The Waterloo Sunset.

And, it seems we are in paradise.

Paradise.

We’re glad there’s a song about us.

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A Song by a great Songwriter leading a great Group:

Ray Davies is a Londoner.

A Londoner who grew up in a house filled with music and the laughter and warmth generated by loving parents and six older sisters.

Yet, a boy and a man, who needed solitude to give birth to the dreams, the melodies and words in his head.

A young man who found that he had a peculiarly English gift for expressing the bitter sweet aspects of life.

A writer who had been taken by his father to see the Festival of Britain on the South Bank of the River in 1951 where visions of a brave new world offered unlimited promise for the decades ahead.

A writer who seeing these new worlds being born could feel and express the loss as well as the gain in the new glittering times.

A writer who could evoke dreams in black and white as well as colour.

A writer who could evoke the flow of the River, the warmth of the Sunset and the chill of the evening.

A writer who could craft a song that had love and loneliness running through it like a river.

A writer who had as much in common with John Betjeman as he did with Chuck Berry.

The Laureate of English Pop Music.

A writer who could capture the light and the shadows of the world around him.

A world he watched with deep attention.

He took in the dirty old River, it’s dark waters and the glitter of the taxi lights.

The song of The River and the view from the windows above.

He gave voice to the young lovers and the lonely old man holding them in the embrace of his voice, his words and his aching melody.

A writer and performer who could make dark waters and the chilly, chilly, evening alive before us.

A writer who could tell the story of two lovers out of the millions of people emerging from Waterloo Underground.

Ray Davies was also a bandleader and producer who could capture all those elements in a record that will live as long as the dark waters flow and the sun sets over the River.

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To do this he needed the skill and commitment of his brother Dave Davies and brothers in arms Pete Quaife and Mick Avory.

He needed The Kinks.

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Together they created in the studio a great record from a great song.

The lovely bass line moves through the song like a stately barge ploughing through the tide of the River.

Dave Davies’ guitar using tape delay echo has a melancholy grace holding us in thrall throughout.

Mick Avory’s drums flow on like the River and alert us to the crescendos of feeling as the song moves to its climax.

Together The Kinks with Rsy’s first wife, Rasa, give us perhaps the most heart rending harmony vocals of the era.

So, it’s a song about London.

About The River.

About a Lonely Man.

About Two Lovers.

A song that flows on through the decades.

A song that will always flow on because Rivers always flow and evenings always get chilly.

Because, as long as we can listen to Waterloo Sunset we can, for those few minutes, be in
paradise.

In Paradise.

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Time to hear it again:

Ray Davies is reported to have said that he was sure he had written the best song of the year in 1967.

I’ll go further.

I think in Waterloo Sunset he wrote the finest English song of the entire 1960s.

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Allen Toussaint, Ernie K Doe : Mother-in-Law, Here Come The Girls

Where am I headed?

Well, walking the hills of old Duluth can get might cold.

So, time to head down to the source.

Down Highway 61.

Following the mighty Mississippi.

All the way down.

Thirteen Hundred miles and more.

All the way down.

Down to the Crescent City.

New Orleans.

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New Orleans, where the food and the climate and the music have a flavour that you just can’t get anywhere else.

Nowhere else has that special mix of ethnicities and rhythms that make for a perfect tasting gumbo.

So, back to the Source.

The City of Louis Armstrong and Antoine Fats Domino.

The City of Professor Longhair and Irma Thomas.

The City of Allen Toussaint.

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and Ernest Kador Jr – eternally to be remembered as Ernie K-Doe.

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In April 1961 Allen Toussaint went into the J&M Studios in New Orleans with Ernie and a hand picked crew of musicians and emerged with a multi million seller which became the first Pop Number One from the Crescent City (a feat denied to Fats Domino and Little Richard).

A record that kept Del Shannon’s ‘Runaway’, Ricky Nelson’s ‘Travelin’ Man’ and Gene McDaniels’ ‘One Hundred Pounds of Clay’ off the top of Billboard.

And that record was?

Don’t tell me you don’t know, ‘Mother-in-Law’.

As Ernie said (and I ain’t about to argue) :

”There aren’t but three songs that will last for eternity,’ ”One is ‘Amazing Grace.’ Another is ‘The Star-Spangled Banner.’ And the third is ‘Mother-in-Law,’ because as long as there are people on this earth, there will always be mother-in-laws.”

Once you’ve listened to it fifty times or so (in the first week you come across it!) you wont be arguing with Ernie either.

I trust you’ve got your dancing shoes on ’cause you’re sure gonna need ’em!

 

Burn, K-Doe, Burn!

You just good, Ernie, that’s all!.

Now, ain’t that good for what ails you?

If skies are grey, the mailman hasn’t called for a month and your doctor won’t even tell you what it is you got I prescribe three spins of, ‘Mother-in-Law’ and I guarantee you’re going to feel a whole lot better.

Allen Toussaint brought all his skills as a songwriter, piano player, band leader, producer and arranger to Mother-in-Law.

The tempo is just right – a relaxed shuffle that demands you sway along to it.

The pitch perfect bass answering vocal comes courtesy of Benny Spellman.

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Later on Ernie returned the favour by singing back up on Benny’s ‘Lipstick Traces (on a Cigarette) another classic from the pen of Allen Toussaint.

The riverboat setting out sax is provided by Robert Parker (previously featured on The Jukebox with, ‘Barefootin’).

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Stirring al the ingredients ’til everything was just so and providing the addictive piano throughout was Allen Toussaint himself.

And Ernie?

Well Ernie provided charm by the bucket load and sang lead with a smile so broad you can hear it in every groove.

Every groove.

And, that Ladies and Gentlemen, is how you confect an all time classic!

At this point I must issue a Formal Disclaimer.

My own Mother-in-Law, Enid (RIP), whom I miss greatly could not have been more warm and welcoming to me when I appeared as a prospective Son-in-Law.

Far from being sent from ‘Down Below’ she was clearly sent here from Above.

Ernie gloried in the success of ‘Mother-in-Law’ but though he made many fine records subsequently he was never to have another mega hit.

What he did become through the force of his personality was a bona fide New Orleans legend.

And, far away across The Atlantic, deep in the Surrey Rhythm & Blues Delta, Eric Clapton with The Yardbirds chose to record another Ernie K-Doe and Allen Toussaint song for their debut single.

Later on, the great Warren Zevon (due to feature on The Jukebox soon) brought his own lascivious lupine genius to the song.

Still and all it’s Ernie’s version that gets me on the dance floor – you just cant beat that New Orleans strut on a ‘Certain Girl’.

Tempo, Tempo, Tempo!

 

Ernie’s national and International career was cast into the doldrums by the British Invasion and the rise of Motown.

Still, Allen Toussaint remained faithful to an old friend and in 1970 brought Ernie into the Studio with New Orleans finest.The Meters, and crafted a superb album which featured a guaranteed smash hit in any sane world, ‘Here Come The Girls’.

Except, as we all know all too well, we very often live in an insane world – so Here Come The Girls came out and promptly vanished into the ether.

Just listen to the joyous funk of this track and wonder what you have to do to have a Hit!

Times were hard for Ernie from the mid 70s to the end of the 80s.

He grew far too fond of The Bottle and seemed unable to recover that winning charm.

It was the love of a good woman, Antoinette Fox, that saved him.

She convinced him to bid the booze goodbye and gave him the energy to relaunch his career as a performer and crucially for his local profile as a Radio DJ for WWOZ and WTUL.

Ernie’s outsize personality found a ready audience and he became a much loved figure once again in his Hometown.

He loved to dress up to and beyond the nines and as the host in his own, ‘Mother-in-Law’ Bar and Lounge he was entirely capable of singing ‘Mother-in-Law’  ten times in a row and having the audience roar along with every word!

Ernie died in July 2001 as a revered elder statesman of the Crescent City music scene and he was later, quite properly, inducted into the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame.

Oh and as The Jukebox has told you before, and will again :

‘A true message always gets through. Sometimes it just takes a while’.

For in 2007 some bright spark in the British advertising world had the brilliant idea that the perfect song to sell Make Up products for Boots (a chain of Pharmacies long a staple of the British High Street) was none other than Ernie K-Doe’s, ‘Here Come The Girls’!

It featured in a series of Ads that everybody from 8 to 80 loved and sang along to with gusto. Soon, ‘Here Comes The Girl’ was a genuine hit and the shade of Ernie must have laughed and said, ‘I knew, I always knew, it was a Hit!’

Burn K-Doe burn!

You just good Ernie, that’s all.

Too Good.

I’m going to wrap it up today with an Easter Extravaganza for y’all.

Here’s Ernie with Allen reliving those golden days and thrilling us all.

Burn K-Doe, Burn!

Oh, and I must admit it’s been a long, long, time since I’ve spontaneously launched into a rendition of, ‘Amazing Grace’ or ‘The Star Spangled Banner’.

But, quite often, when I’m walking in the South Downs Hills, bubbling out of my subconscious comes :

’Mother-in-Law (Mother-in-Law) ….. and the miles fly by.

Notes :

Ernie was the ninth of eleven children.

His father was a Baptist Preacher so Ernie, as so many, began his singing career in the Gospel tradition – his early hero being the stupendous Archie Brownlee from the Five Blind Boys of Mississippi.

After a few years in Chicago as a teenager he returned to New Orleans and was talent spotted by Bumps Blackwell.

However, it was only when he signed to Minit Records and came under the tutelage of Allen Toussaint that his career blossomed.

Further Tracks by Ernie that I love include :

’Hello My Lover’, ‘I Cried My Last Tear’, ‘Te-Ta-Te-Ta-Ta’ and ‘Popeye Joe’.

Ben Sandmel has written a very enjoyable appreciation of Ernie in, ‘Ernie K-Doe : The R&B Emperor Of New Orleans’.

The Who : I Can’t Explain

Easter, a time for retreat, reflection and revelation.

So, I have journeyed to the ancient flatlands of the East where the winds hit heavy off the coast.

By passed and forgotten lands filled with ghosts.

The ghosts of Boudicca and the Iceni.

The ghosts of Hereward the Wake and his Fen warriors.

Seried ranks of airmen from Wichita and Warsaw and Winnipeg and Waterford and Wellington and Worcester who flew one mission too many and who now sleep under endless East Anglian skies.

I stirred a few ghosts of my own when I revisited my old Cambridge College.

Looking up at the window of my old room I was teleported back 40 years or more to walk imaginatively beside the curious (in all senses of the word) youth who seemed to have spent a whole year reading Thomas Aquinas’ ‘Summa Theologica’.

614 Questions. 3125 Articles.

Everything that could be said and explained, Explained.

Man and God and Law.

And yet, the great Thomas himself overwhelmed by a mystic insight before his death came to regard his life’s work as nothing more than Straw in comparison to the reality he was attempting to explain.

Some things you know but can’t explain.

Some things you feel in your bones.

Sometimes your heart beats fit to bust out of your chest.

Sometimes the hormones surge.

The blood sings.

If only your heart would give up its secret.

If only you could say the words you are dying to say.

You’ve got a feeling inside you can’t explain

You feel hot and cold.

You’re feeling good.

Down in your soul.

Dizzy in the head.

Ah, but, you can’t explain.

You can’t explain.

Do you think it’s love?

Do you think it’s love?

Try to say it (go on you do)

Try to say it.

I think it’s love.

Love.

Forgive me.
*
I can’t explain.
*
I think it’s love.
*
I can’t explain.
*
Love.
*

 

They had been The High Numbers.

Now and forever they were The Who.

With this record they announced themselves as a great group.

One to stand shoulder to shoulder with The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and The Kinks.

A group bursting with talent and drive and character.

An unstoppable Force.

A group with a distinctive sound and ethos.

Modernists.

Mods.

Style and Attitude.

Attitude with a capital A.

The energy of the streets and estates.

The experimental approach of the Art School.

A sound emerging like a train from the dark tunnel of post war British History.

Specifically drawing energy from a City, London, throwing off the grey dust of the bomb sites and austerity.

London about to dazzle in thrilling colour after decades of monochrome.

The youth of London ravenous for the New, The Modern.

Purple Hearts. French Blues. Black Bombers.

The Suit. The Scooter. The Sound.

The correct number of buttons.

The barnet cut – just so.

Ravenous for clothes and music that was New.

Fashion and Sound that was Theirs!

Youthful beneficiaries of the 1944 Butler Education Act and the end of Conscription into the Armed Forces.

A generation not exhausted by a depression followed by a world war.

A generation not carrying the guilt of having survived when so many others had not.

A generation released into unlimited ambition.

A youth quake of disruptive, undeferential, talent and energy.

Ray Davies, Richard Hamilton, Mary Quant, Albert Finley, Pauline Boty, Terence Stamp, David Bailey, Julie Christie, Mick Jagger, Bridget Riley, Tom Courtney.

Leaders.

Emblems.

Faces.

Pete Townshend : A Face among Faces.

Fiercely intelligent.

Fiercely energetic.

Electric, overflowing with intelligence and energy.

Creative and destructive.

Make that guitar scream and ring like an alarm!

Smash that guitar to smithereens!

Write ringing, screaming, songs that tumble out trying to explain all that can’t be explained.

Be honest about how confused life is when you are young and the blood is singing and the hormones are raging.

Can’t explain.

Can’t explain.

Record and perform the songs with a natural front man singer.

With a bass player who holds together all the manic energy surrounding him.

With a drummer who plays the drums as the lead instrument and whose energy levels are always in the red, ’about to explode’ zone.

Absorb, contain and volcanically release all this energy through your guitar.

Attend to those funny dreams.

Again and again.

Tenderness and Terror.

Denial and Declaration.

Can’t explain.

Keep silent or speak out.

Tenderness and Terror.

Dizzy in the Head.

Can’t explain.

Can’t explain.

I think it’s love.

Love.

Carole King, Dusty Springfield, The Byrds, Nils Lofgren & Richard Thompson : Goin’ Back

A babe in arms.

A babe in your mother’s warm embracing arms.

Lifted up in the chill night air surrounded by heady scent of white blooms all the moon long.

Blanketed in sulphurous Fog you walk hand in hand with Dad and though you can’t see road or pavement and don’t know where you are going you do know you are safe and will arrive – because you are hand in hand with Dad.

The Walnut of the radiogram gleams to reflect your face.

And, when the knob is turned a lovely green light blushes the room.

You know you’re not allowed to switch it on.

But .. and  from the speakers emerges something wonderful, miraculous :

Don’t want your love anymore
Don’t want your kisses, that’s for sure
I die each time I hear this sound
Here he comes, that’s Cathy’s clown.

Now, the room is filled and your heart is filled and your soul is filled and you will never forget this moment.

Happy Highways.

Blue remembered hills.

Shining plain forever in the memory.

When you are small you are told and might believe you know nothing worth knowing.

Ah! but to be the prince of apple town.

To be green and carefree, huntsman and herdsman, in the Sun that is young once only.

First knowing.

First morning song.

Young and easy, oblivious of the mercy.

Angel infancy.

Shadows of eternity.

Bright shoots of everlastingness.

Oh, to travel back and tread again on that ancient track to the land of lost content.

The slender tops of fir trees close against the sky.

Now there’s more to do than watch my sailboat glide.

No more games to only pass the time.

Living life instead of counting years.

I’d rather see the world the way it used to be.

So catch me if you can I’m going back.

Going back.

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In 1966 Carole King and Gerry Goffin gave us a magic carpet ride song that looked poignantly back to the childhood land of lost content and tremulously forward to a world where thinking young and growing older is no sin.

A world where the game of life can be played to win.

Catch me if you can.

Streaming, filled with light, through the eye of a needle.

Going back.

Sing it for me Dusty.

Take me back.

Dusty Springfield.

Unquestionably thev finest pop/soul singer ever to come from the British Iles.

A singer of both power and delicacy.

Dusty finds the deep melancholy and the fragile hope in Goin’ Back.

Dusty knew that great songs were rare and precious things.

Time after time Dusty found depths of meaning within songs few had even guessed at.

Time after time singing these songs Dusty found something within them that brought out aspects of herself she had barely guessed at.

Beauty emerging out of Hide and seek with her fears and ours.

Catch me if you can ….

Now let’s fly high, eight miles high, with The Byrds for a panoramic take on Goin’ Back.

I think I’m goin’ back to the things I learned so well in my youth.

Catch me if you can.

Catch me if you can.

 

Carole King left an indelible mark on the 1960s threading veins of pure gold through the decade with the songs she wrote with Gerry Goffin.

Come the 1970s she was ready to move to the centre of the stage and put her own stamp on the songs she had gifted to other singers and groups.

Listening to her version of Goin’ Back it occurs to me that she has rarely received due praise for the singer element in the Singer/Songwriter appellation so often ascribed to describe her solo records.

There is aching truth and no little heartbreak in the way she tells herself and us that she could recall a time when she wasn’t afraid to reach out to a friend.

Hide and seek.

Hide and seek.

Carole King’s songs reach out in faith and friendship.

Thinking young and growing older is no sin.

Plaing the game of life to win.

Catch me if you can.

Catch me if you can.

Goin’ Back.

 

Nils Lofgren – Guitar Slinger for the greats.

Neil Young. Bruce Springsteen.

Yet, too often forgotten a very fine artist in his own right.

From his early years with Grin and throughout his solo albums you hear the sound of an extravagantly gifted musician whose greatest gift was the depth of heart he brought to every performance whether on record or on stage.

With Nils Goin’ Back really does become a magic carpet ride.

Catch me if you can.

Catch me if you can.

Goin’ Back.

Happy Highways.

Blue remembered hills.

Shining plain Forever.

Catch me if you can.

Catch me if you can.

I’m Goin’ Back.

Streaming, filled with life through the eye of a needle.

Goin’ Back.

Now, here’s that hidden track you sometimes find when you think the CD/LP has no more gifts to give.

Guitar Gurus Roger McGuinn and Richard Thompson with a 6 string colloquy.

Starry eyed and laughing.

Bright shoots of everlasting ness.

Catch me if you can.

Catch me if you can.

Goin’ Back.

Goin’ Back.

Notes :

Thanks due to Dylan Thomas, Seamus Heaney, Thomas Hood, A E Houseman and Henry Vaughan for their wisdom and inspiration.

Look out for the annual St Patrick’s Parade series of posts starting on Sunday – this year celebrating Mná na hÉireann – The Women of Ireland.

David Bowie, Nina Simone : Wild Is The Wind

 

The wind bloweth where it listeth.

Where it listeth.

And we, we are nought but chaff in the wind.

Chaff in the wind.

When the wind is northerly ‘tis very cold.

And, when we are in Love reason is buffeted like wind-blown smoke.

Our lives are but feathers helplessly teased and tormented by the winds of Love.

All the winds sigh for sweet things dying, dying.

The wind from all points of the compass; north, east, south or west gathers and remembers our voices, the whispers of our hearts, and broadcasts them in the calls of the birds and the threshing of the leaves and fields.

The wind feeds the fires of Love and in the end is there to extinguish the flames too.

The east wind brought the locusts.

Two riders were approaching.

The wind began to Howl.

Howl.

Love me, love me, love me, love me.

Say you do.

My love is like the wind and wild is the wind.

Wild is the wind.

Wild is the wind.

Wild Is the WInd was written by Dimitri Tiomkin and Ned Washington (previously featured here as composers of High Noon) for a 1957 romantic melodrama of the same name starring Anthony Quinn and Anna Magnani.

Johnny Mathis gave the song a poised and polished performance gliding atop sweeping strings.

Yet, there is no sense in his reading of the desperation implicit in the lines :

’With your kiss my life begins .. you’re spring to me .. All things to  me …

Don’t you know you’re life itself’.

No, the song would have to wait until an artist of genius took possession of the song and through the alchemy of her art transformed a leaf trembling breeze into a heart shattering hurricane.

It’s the same song in tne way that someone returning home after the trauma of war is the same person who departed.

Nina Simone in 1959 at NYC Town Hall in her vocal and piano playing evokes layer after layer of bruised and battered feeling.

The euphoria of the sound of mandolins and the shocking abandonment and abasement of the wild wind of the obsessed Lover are made present in every breath and every note so that the listening audience must have felt emotionally wrung out as the last note subsided into exhausted silence.

Don’t you know you’re life itself!

Better to die than to live without this Love.

The leaf clinging to the tree.

We are like creatures, creatures, in the wind.

Cling to me. Cling to me. Cling to me.

Wild is the Wind.

Wild is the Wind.

Nina Simone would return over and over again to Wild Is the Wind.

In the tour de force version below, issued in 1966, the wind she evokes is a tornado that sweeps us into a tumult of a Love that is nothing less than Life and Death to the Lover.

An eternally entwined trinity.

Life and Love and Death.

Don’t you Know you’re Life Itself!

Creatures, creatures of the Wind.

The sound of Mandolins.

With your kiss my Life Begins.

Don’t you know you’re Life Itself.

Cling to me.

Life and Love and Death.

Wild is the Wind.

Wild Is the Wind.

David Bowie in free fall after the Ziggy Stardust years found in the artistic persona of Nina Simone an anchor and a ladder.

Especially in her performance of Wild is The Wind which must have attracted him as the quintesssntial demonstration of how a true artist could summon and surrender to a tsunami of emotion yet remain in control through craft and discipline so that it is the audience and not the artist who is overwhelmed.

Bowie recorded the song for his bravura 1976 album, ‘Station to Station’.

Being the very smart guy he was he knew not to attempt to sing the song to piano accompaniment for that could only cast him into Nina’s Olympian shadow.

Instead, with extraordinary care, he arranged a version that had oceanic sway as intertwined guitars (Carlos Alomar and Earl Slick) and percussion (Dennis Davis) urged his vocal to reach, reach, reach until we are bereft – leaves clinging to the tree , helpless.

For we are creatures, creatures, sweet things dying.

With your kiss My Life Begins.

Don’t you know you’re Live Itself.

Wild Is The Wind.

Wild is The Wind.

 

Tne wind bloweth where it Listeth.

Where it listeth.

And we are nought but chaff in the wind.

Chaff in the wind.

When David Bowie performed at Glastonbury in tne year 2000 he had been through many storms, many of his own making, and had survived them to emerge as a magus in complete command of his art.

The sound of Mandolins

Love me, love me, love me, love me.

Life Itself.

Cteatures In The Wind.

Creatures.

Life and Love and Death.

An eternally entwined trinity.

We are all helpless before the Wind.

Leaves clinging to the trees.

Wild Is The Wind.

Wild Is The Wind.

Wild Is the Wind.

Wild Is the Wind.

Thanks due to The King James Bible. Truman Capote, Christina Rossetti and William Shakespeare for inspiration.