Rolling Stones : The Joint was Rocking – Going Around and Around (Memories of Eel Pie Island )

‘Eel Pie Island was a big hang-out for me, an ancient damp ballroom stuck in the middle of the River Thames reached by a rickety wooden footbridge. But you felt that you were heading somewhere truly exotic.

It was the place where I began to understand the power of Rhythm & Blues.’ (Rod Stewart)

Last week was a big week.

My daughter started at University.

I drove her there with a knotted stomach – hoping, praying, that these next years would be all that she hoped – the time of her life.

On the way I ceded control of the CD Player – she’s not exactly a fan of the usual fare I play – Howling Wolf, Jimmy Reed, Arthur Alexander.

First up was an Elton John compilation.

‘Crocodile Rock’ blasted out and suddenly these lines really hit home :

’I never had me a better time and I guess I never will’.

Proust had his Madeleine – I have Music.

As soon as I heard those lines I was beamed back there.

To The Island.

Eel Pie Island to give it its full cartographical title.

But, for us .. a raggle taggle band of would be anarchists and bohemians (in reality grammar school boys and girls, art school students and other assorted refugees from the ‘straight world’) it was always just The Island.

The Island.

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Spring and Summer of 1963.

The Time of My Life.

Crossing The River in the Moonlight by the Footbridge.

Crossing to a mysterious land where magic scenes and sounds were all around.

Arthur Chisnall’s Magic Kingdom where Music and Ideas and glorious youthful exuberance and madness reigned, unrestrained.

Blues, Ban The Bomb, Ginsberg, Kerouac, Pop Art …

Queueing up to get my hand stamped by Stan- usually with the name of an obscure African Country.

Clutching my Island Passport :

‘We request and require, in the name of His Excellency Prince Pan, all those whom it may concern to give the bearer of this passport any assistance he/she may require in his/her lawful business of jiving and generally cutting a rug.’

Drinking as much Newcastle Brown Ale as my belly could hold.

Escaping gravity as the sprung Ballroom floor of The Island Hotel see sawed up and down as we danced to Cyril Davies’ All Stars, The Tridents (with Jeff Beck), John Mayall’s Blues Breakers (with Eric Clapton) and Long John Baldry’s Hoochie Coochie Men (with Rod Stewart).

Trying, desperately, to impress the impossibly glamorous girls in their sixties finery.

Someone said later that on The Island you could feel sex rising from The Island like steam from a kettle.

I certainly got burned.

I loved all those Bands – and The Artwoods and The Yardbirds and Georgie Fame’s Blue Flames.

But, But, from the first time I saw them, April 24th 1963, there was only one Band which commanded my total allegiance – The Rolling Stones.

Bear in mind they hadn’t yet made any records.

These Rolling Stones could be found, honing their chops, at The Station Hotel in Richmond or The Crawdaddy.

You might come across Keith or Mick or Brian shopping for Blues and R & B obscurities at Gerry Potter’s Record Shop on Richmond Hill.

These were The Rolling Stones before the legend.

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Before the national and international tours.

Before the Record Contract and the TV Shows.

These Rolling Stones were our secret.

Our Band.

And, Long before it became a slogan I was telling anyone who would listen (of course, there were precious few of those) that Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Brian Jones, Bill Wyman and Charlie Watts (not forgetting Stu) were not only the greatest R&B and Rock ‘n’ Roll Band in The Thames Delta but very possibly, very probably, Hell … 100% for certain the finest in the entire world!

I knew that because I saw them play two dozen times on The Island between April and the end of September 1963.

Two dozen times I felt their growing power as a unit.

Their ability to play hot and cool at the same time.

Their ability to Roll and and Sway as well as Rock.

Their ability to lock into the Rhythm and ease into The Blues.

Their ability to get the joint absolutely rocking – Going Around and Around.

I knew because as soon as they hit the first note of Route 66 the floor became a trampoline!

 

 

Now, anyone could see that going on stage in front of an audience put 50,000 Watts of energy through Mick Jagger.

Energy he learned to control and channel – to light like a fuse to send that audience into blissful explosion.

Bill Wyman didn’t move much but his Bass held that energy in tension.

Brian Jones looked great and added the instrumental flourishes.

Charlie Watts and Keith Richards were the masters of Rhythm – born to play this Music.

Together they found gears unknown to their contemporaries.

And, they knew that you can’t exhaust your audience (and yourselves) by playing flat out all night long.

You have to be able to take the tempo down and cast a romantic spell.

You have to learn from the great Arthur Alexander about playing and pacing an R & B Ballad.

 

 

Through and with The Rolling Stones we became R&B and Blues afficianados.

We knew that there was a deep knowing in the seeming simplistic works of Jimmy Reed.

A deep knowing that most Bands either didn’t recognise or couldn’t find within themselves  when they took on a Jimmy Reed tune.

The Rolling Stones knew.

And, listening to them we could feel in our guts that they knew.

 

 

One night they played a song I didn’t recognise.

Turned out it was one that Mick and Keith wrote together.

I thought – if they get the hang of writing given how great they are as a live band they might be able to expand their reach far beyond the Bluesniks like me.

Who knows?

They might even end up being damn near enough as big as The Beatles!

 

Somethings you never forget.

Never.

24 nights on The Island.

The place was packed.

Reeling and Rocking.

Sounds that sent us divinely crazy.

Reeling and Rocking until the Moon went down.

Ah … ah … that Joint was Rocking.

And so were we.

Reeling and Rocking through the Time of Our Lives.

On The Island.

Going Around and Around.

 

 

When I got back Home from dropping my Daughter off I looked through my old files and found this.

The Rolling Stones Ad

I laughed and took down my vinyl copies of The Rolling Stones debut LP and their first two  EPs and played them as loud as my system would allow.

I tell you my Joint was really Rocking.

Notes :

There’s an excellent Book on Eel Pie Island by Dan Van der Vat and Michele Whitby.

I also recommend the Oral History edited by JC Wheatley – ‘British Beat Explosion – Rock ‘n’ Roll Island’

There are 2 worthwhile DVDs – ‘Clinging To A Mudflat’ and, ‘Eel Pie and Blues’

A search of YouTube will yield other fascinating clips.

The Small Faces : All or Nothing

‘We were on tour, staying in the Station Hotel Leeds, when Steve suddenly ran down the corridor screaming – I’ve got it! I’ve just written our next hit!’ (Kenney Jones)

‘I think, ‘All or Nothing’ takes a lot of beating. If there’s a song that typifies that era, then that might be it.’ (Steve Marriott)

When it comes to Love and Romance we’ve all got History.

Everyone has History.

Bad Dreams, Baggage.

Betrayals, Battle Scars.

Heartache. Heartbreak.

We all know how it feels to be heart sore.

Yet, we all know how it feels to have Hope.

To believe in blessings.

To believe that we are not trapped by our pasts.

To believe in second, third and fourth chances.

History is made and remade every brand new day.

Now, given all that History you can be properly cautious and careful.

You can be measured and deliberate.

You can rehearse every scenario.

But, but, Brothers and Sisters, Spring doesn’t last forever.

You can look as long as you like but in the end you will have to leap.

Bystanders watch all the blessings pass them by.

Leap. Leap.

Even though soft landings are never guaranteed.

In the end it’s All or Nothing.

And, we know that nothing comes of nothing.

Ninety-Nine and a half just won’t do.

All or Nothing.

All or Nothing.

 

 

Nice, very, very Nice!

Admit it – resistance is useless.

In the long ago Vintage Vinyl days when I used to DJ I always insisted, whatever the audience, that we play, ‘All or Nothing’ at stun volume.

And, from the instant Kenney Jones’ drums crash in I would leap the Decks and go absolutely crazy!

Which is to say that The Small Faces’ All or Nothing is one of the definitive British Pop Singles.

Marriott’s vocal was characteristically direct, dramatic and dynamic – there’s no way you can get out of the way of Steve Marriott when he’s coming at you!

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Kenney Jones’ drumming drives us all headspinningly dizzy.

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Ronnie Lane’s warm bass and urgent backing vocals bonds everything together.

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Ian McLagen’s surging runs on the Hammond explode in the head and heart.

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Together they conjure a sound that shouts, exults, in the joy of being alive.

It was an unstoppable Number One in September 1966 displacing The Beatles from their customary sojourn at the summit of the charts.

The Small Faces : Steve Marriott on Vocals and Guitar, Ronnie Lane on Bass, Kenney Jones on Drums and Ian McLagan on Wurlitzer Piano and Hammond Organ were rogues and rounders, living it large London larrikins and highly Artful Dodgers!  (Steve Marriott had actually acted as that character in the stage show Oliver!)

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Young men living in the epicentre of Swinging 60s London they were having the time of their lives radiating big hearted joy in music making.

Listening to them, watching them, it was impossible, then or now, to do anything other than fall in love with them.

Steve, Ronnie and Kenney were East End Boys with Ian, the ringer, hailing from West London.

One fateful day in 1964 Ronnie Lane decided that he would be better off playing the Bass rather than the expensive Gretsch his Dad had shelled out for.

His friend, Kenney Jones, said why not go to the J60 Music Shop in Manor Park High Street where he had found his Drum Kit.

The ultra cheeky Sales Assistant, who immediately assured Ronnie that he would get him the best Bass in the store, was none other than Steve Marriott!

Just like in a Movie, Steve sold Ronnie a Harmony Bass and took over the Gretsch for himself!

To test out the sound Kenney sat behind  Drum Kit and set off the first Small Faces groove then and there!

So was born a true Band of Brothers.

Wherever they played they built a following.

Their own immense enjoyment in playing, their energy, their delight in Mod fashion, their similarity in looks combined to forge a winning charisma.

Their residency at London’s Cavern Club won them a manager, Don Arden, who secured them a Record Contract with Decca and a salary of £20a week each.

They also got an expense account to keep their Mod Look always at the cutting edge.

What they did not get, ever, were royalties for the string of hits they created.

It is estimated that they collectively lost out on more than £10Million!

That’s Show Biz in the Swinging Sixties for you.

At the time, especially when they we’re living together from Christmas 1965 to Christmas 1966 at 22 Westmorland Terrace in Pimlico, they were too busy partying, recording and touring to audit their accounts.

They were blazingly living in the moment.

In their sound you can hear the kaleidoscopic optimism of the Sixties.

You can hear the development from pure high energy pop to thoughtful explorations of their expanding minds.

You can almost inhale the pot smoke and pop the pills as the 45s revolve.

You can follow the development of dandified male fashion.

You can be swept along by their enthusiasm and largeness of spirit.

Now the high Summer of the Small Faces’ Sixties so wonderfully represented by, ‘All or Nothing’ could not last forever.

But, before Steve Marriott stormed off stage on New Years day 1968 The Small Faces had laid down an indelible legacy.

Records that will always thrill and charm.

Records that make you smile broadly and get up and dance whatever mood you were in before they came on.

The riches accumulated by The Small Faces were never reflected in their bank accounts.

Rather, they were embedded in their memories of golden youth and in the love and affection of their loyal following.

They left us songs in which our hearts lived.

I’ll leave you with a live appearance on BBC Radio.

 

In memory of:

Steve Marriott 1947 – 1991 (entirely appropriately All or Nothing was played at Steve’s funeral service)

Ronnie Lane 1946 – 1997

Ian McLagan 1945 – 2014

And for Kenney Jones wishing him good health and long life.

Recommended Recordings:

I wrote this Post listening to the 5CD ‘Decca Years 1965 – 1967’ Box Set which never sits on my shelves for very long as it is guaranteed to brighten any day.

The Albums, ‘Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake’ and ‘Autumn Stone’ are classic records which will transport to those sunny 60s uplands.

 

Toots & The Maytals : Pressure Drop

‘When I got out of jail I had a sense of injustice. [Pressure Drop] is a song about revenge : if you do bad things to innocent people, bad things will happen to you.’ (Toots HIbbert)

( Jackie Jackson, Bass player on Pressure Drop) : ‘In 1975 we supported The Who playing to 90,000 people in California. The crowd just stood there staring – like they were going to have us for their supper. We said – what the hell are we going to do? Someone suggested opening with Pressure Drop.

The Place erupted!’ 

You reap what you sow.

You really do.

The temptation is to deceive yourself that whatever you want to do, no matter the disastrous effect it has on other lives, is just fine.

Just fine.

But, Life, God, The Universe, will not be mocked.

Oh, you might ‘get away’ from retribution for years and years and years believing you have been granted special  immunity.

But, but, but … me and Toots & The Maytals are here to tell you, directly and with vigour that sooner or later, sooner or later, the wind will change, tne water will rise, the flames will appear and you will be consumed.

Toots doesn’t seek revenge like a warrior rejoicing in his own strength and the defeat of those who have done him harm.

Rather, with certain faith and with joy in his heart he celebrates the truth that balance will always be restored.

It’s just a matter of Time.

The glass will record the approaching storm

The Pressure will Drop.

Look out Brother.

Look out!

The Pressure is most assuredly gonna Drop on you!

 

What a glorious riot!

Toots as a singer and songwriter seems to me to be a natural mystic.

Underpinning all his performances and recordings is a gospel fervour, a preacher’s call seeking an open hearted Amen from his audience.

And, tell me who, who, in tne whole wide world, swept away by the majestic vocals and rhythmic ecstasy of Pressure Drop, will fail to shake the rafters with Amen after Amen after Amen!

Toots was a veteran of the ska and rocksteady scenes and a Founding Father of Reggae when he came to record Pressure Drop for producer Leslie Kong in 1969.

Incredibly, Pressure Drop was cut live in tne studio in one take.

Toots an inspirational figure and born leader dives straight in introducing the melody with the most brilliant and affecting humming ever committed to tape.

The Maytals, Raleigh Gordon and Jerry Mathias, empathetically echo and urge Toots forward throughout every beat of the record.

Together they became an unmatched rhapsodic vocal trio bursting with love of life and music.

Keeping everything bubbling away at exactly the right temperature was the exquisite guitar of Huck Brown, the soul deep bass and drums of Jackie Jackson and Winston Grennan and the majestic Organ of Winston Wright.

Pressure Drop is one of those rare songs that has organic unity – it just flows.

Now, if you ever get the chance to see Toots & The Maytals live – don’t hesitate just go!

Take the plane, take the train, drive.

But, even if you have to walk all the way – get there.

Because Toots live is an experience of unbounded Joy.

Oh, and make sure to wear the right shoes.

Because from the minute he hits the stage you’re gonna be up out of your seat – lurching, laughing and dancing until you think you can’t dance no more.

Then Toots will start humming and kick off Pressure Drop and you’ll find yourself dancing like you’ve never danced before.

 

 

Notes :

Chris Blackwell the founder of Island Records has called Toots HIbbert, ‘One of the purest human beings I’ve met in my life, pure almost to a fault.’

Toots served an 18 month prison sentence in 1966/67.

In 2013 Toots received a serious head injury from a bottle thrown at him from the crowd.

Knowing the reality of life behind bars he had the purity of heart to write to a Judge requesting that the perpetrator not be sent to Prison as this would only increase Toots own pain and suffering.

Many listeners were introduced to Toots through the inclusion of Pressure Drop on the magnificent soundtrack record of the 1972 film, ‘The Harder They Come’ which also includes superb tracks from Jimmy Cliff and Desmond Dekker. No collection is complete without The Harder They Come.

While I was writing this post I was listening to ‘54-56 Was My Number’ a career spanning Toots & The Maytals anthology from the Sanctuary Label.

Toots & The Maytals have made some of the most uplifting and heartening Records ever issued.

Check out  ‘Funky Kingston’ and, ‘Toots & The Maytals in Memphis’ – Records that will immeasurably boost your well being and become treasured lifetime companions.

Bruce Springsteen, Chuck Berry, Emmylou Harris : You Never Can Tell

When you are young you think you know.

You know how the world works.

You know just how things are going to turn out.

But you find out the world is a much stranger place than you thought.

People – your parents, your friends, your one and only love, strangely decide to behave in ways you never expected.

The 16 year old school no-hoper strangely turns out to a world-beater by 25.

Volcanos erupt. Impregnable Walls are torn down.

True Love sometimes turns out to be exactly that.

You learn not to make such definite snap judgments.

When things happen you didn’t see coming you’re not outraged.

Instead you smile a wry smile and say ’C’est La Vie – it goes to show you never can tell’.

 

And, if you’re a great songwriter reflecting wryly on life and love you decide to write a song filled with acute observation, humour and wisdom.

At least, that’s what you do if you’re Chuck Berry – even if you’re in Prison when the inspiration strikes.

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Chuck was, of course, a writer of both inspiration and deliberation.

There’s immense craft in the song.

The story is told in four short verses.

‘C’est la vie say the old folks, it goes to show you never can tell’ is an arresting and immediately memorable lyric hook neatly and beautifully rhythmically encapsulating the moral of the song.

The AAAA Rhyme scheme is used with finesse and wit building up rhyme by rhyme a complete picture of the situation.

Chuck delights in marrying his New Orleans Creole Rhythm with a French name for teenage spouse, Pierre, and playfully using both madamoiselle and Madame, in the correct order, to signify that the truly in love couple have indeed rung the chapel bell.

So, married life begins with a well stocked Collerator just crammed with those dinners they wolfed while watching their favourite shows. I wouldn’t be surprised if they mixed that ginger ale with something a little more potent!

I was delighted to discover that ‘Coolerator’ was a genuine brand name (see image below) and that the refrigerators were manufactured in Duluth – making it certain that they would have been known to Bob Dylan and very likely stocked in the family electricals store.

 

It was a teenage wedding, and the old folks wished them well
You could see that Pierre did truly love the mademoiselle
And now the young monsieur and madame have rung the chapel bell
“C’est la vie”, say the old folks, it goes to show you never can tell
They furnished off an apartment with a two room Roebuck sale
The coolerator was crammed with TV dinners and ginger ale
But when Pierre found work, the little money comin’ worked out well
“C’est la vie”, say the old folks, it goes to show you never can tell
They had a hi-fi phono, boy, did they let it blast
Seven hundred little records, all rock, rhythm and jazz
But when the sun went down, the rapid tempo of the music fell
“C’est la vie”, say the old folks, it goes to show you never can tell
They bought a souped-up jitney, ’twas a cherry red ’53
They drove it down to Orleans to celebrate the anniversary
It was there that Pierre was married to the lovely mademoiselle
“C’est la vie”, say the old folks, it goes to show you never can tell

 

Chuck always delighted in his references to US Car Culture and I have to admit that from the first moment I heard You Never Can Tell I sorely longed for a ‘Cherry Red ‘53’!

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I haven’t got mine (yet).

But, I surely did get me a fine Hi Fi Phono and boy, as all my neighbours will tell you, did I let it blast!

And, taking pride of place among my 700 or so 45s there will always be a high stack of Chuck Berry singles.

Because he was the greatest songwriter of the primal Rock ‘n’ Roll era and because nothing lifts the spirits like three minutes of prime Chuck Berry!

Consider that You Never Can Tell was preceded by, ‘No Particular Place To Go’ and succeeeded by, ‘Promised Land’ – a run of classics that would have worthily constituted a lifetime’s achievement for another songwriter/performer.

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I should draw your attention to the glorious piano playing of Johnnie Johnson for once foregrounded in this song.

Released from dramatic guitar playing duties Chuck concentrates his genius on his sly and smooth vocal.

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Of course, it was a given that once a new Chuck Berry song hit the airwaves and Jukeboxes that a flood of cover versions would appear.

So many to choose from for our Immortal Jukebox!

Let’s kick off with Emmylou Harris and her aptly named Hot Band more than kicking up their heels!

 

 

Emmylou and Co hit that shuffle rhythm from the get go don’t they.

Glenn D Hardin on piano and Hank Devito add colour with England’s own Albert Lee providing the stellar guitar.

What an apprenticeship in the big time this was for the young Rodney Crowell!

Naturellement he was in love with Emmylou  – putting him in company with all red blooded music fans of the time!

Now we let the arm come down on something really special.

You want a demonstration and distillation of the spirit of Rock ‘n’ Roll?

My Lords, Ladies and Gentlemen and Jukebox afficianados the whole world over I give you the one and only Ronnie Lane with Slim Chance!

 

 

Now that’s a New Orleans second line party!

That’s ginger ale laced with the very finest bourbon!

That makes the big toe in your boot shoot straight up to the sky!

Every time Ronnie Lane strapped on his bass and stepped to the microphone he put his whole heart and soul into his performances exuding sheer glee in the music he was making.

The same holds true for Bruce Springsteen.

I love this version of You Never Can Tell from Leipzig in 2013.

Bruce takes the crowd request and coaches the initially sceptical Band until they produce a wonderfully ragged celebration of Chuck Berry’s anthem.

Chuck Berry will always be the heartbeat of Rock ‘n’ Roll.

Thank God apostles like Bruce Springsteen, Ronnie Lane and Emmylou Harris ensured that the message still resounds.

 

 

And, even today, somewhere in Chicago or Cairo someone is saying – you know we could really do a killer version of that Chuck Berry ‘C’est La Vie’ song.

It goes to show you never can tell where a great song will end up except that it will surely keep traveling on.

The Clash, The Stray Cats, Bobby Fuller : I Fought The Law

‘I wrote it in my living room in West Texas ones sandstormy afternoon. It took me about 20 minutes’ (Sonny Curtis)

West Texas is wide open.

When the wind blows, and it blows a lot, sand storms swirl.

After February 3rd 1959 there was another sound in the swirling sandy wind.

The sound of a Ghost – the Ghost of Buddy Holly.

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Buddy Holly’s music woke deep passions and ambitions in a Minnesota kid who locked eyes with him in one of the last concerts he ever played.

Buddy Holly’s music woke deep passions and ambitions in two Liverpool teenagers who wanted to write and play their own songs and have a group just like The Crickets.

Buddy was the greatest Rock ‘n’ Roller ever to come out of Texas and though his sound echoes all over the world it’s in Texas that his Ghost speaks loudest.

Speaking in the song of the hot sun and the West Texas Wind.

Sonny Curtis knew Buddy well.

He had played with him and recorded with him.

So, when the plane went down that tragic day it seemed natural for The Crickets to turn to Sonny as a new Cricket and songwriter.

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The first post Buddy Crickets album, ‘In Style’ was recorded in New York in 1959 and issued the following year.

Driving up to the Big Apple Jerry Mauldin and Jerry Allison asked Sonny if he had any songs for the new record.

Well .. I got this song, ‘I Fought the Law’ – I wrote last year, ain’t even written it down, kind of a country song, goes like this:

A-breaking rocks in the hot sun
I fought the law and the law won
I fought the law and the law won
I miss my baby and a good fun
I fought the law and the law won
I fought the law and the law won
I left my baby and I feel so bad
Guess my race is run
She’s the best girl that I’ve ever had
I fought the law and the law won
I fought the law and the law won
A-robbin’ people with the zip gun
I fought the law and the law won
I fought the law and the law won
I needed money ’cause I had none
I fought the law and the law won
I fought the law and the law won
I left my baby and I feel so bad
Guess my race is run
She’s the best girl that I’ve ever had
I fought the law and the law won
I fought the law and the law won.

 

Wow! They could all tell this was some song.

A bad boy who ain’t so bad.

The best girl he he ever had.

An armed robbery that goes wrong.

The inexorable reach of the law.

But, not as a country ballad.

No, this needed some of that Buddy bounce.

Bright guitars, rock ‘n’ roll drums, a bright clear vocal (Earl Sinks would take care of that) and a killer chorus.

Put all that together and you’ve got a hell of a record.

 

 

And, it was a hell of a record.

It’s just that in 1960 the great record buying public in all its wisdom wasn’t listening closely to The Crickets anymore and neither were the radio programmers.

So, no hit for The Crickets and no royalties for Sonny Curtis.

Yet, as Jukeboxers know, a true message always gets through – it’s just a matter of how long it takes.

There is, of course, another audience for Songs.

An audience that hears things the public don’t always cotton onto straight away.

The audience of other songwriters and performers who hear a song and think – I know just how to do this one and really make it come alive.

So in 1962 Milwaukee’s Paul Stefan with The Royal Lancers issued a charming, if underpowered, version on Citation Records which won local approval.

A couple of years later Sammy Masters on Kapp recorded it Western recitation style.

Sonny still didn’t really have any royalties to bank but the message was rising above a whisper now.

And, the message was heard loudest and clearest of all by Bobby Fuller under the hot sun back in El Paso Texas.

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Bobby was a natural rocker who loved the sheer sound of guitars turned up high supported by a driving beat and vocals that grabbed your attention from the get go and never let up.

And, Bobby likes to experiment in his basement – layering the instrumental and vocal sound until it rang out like lightning.

Bobby’s sharp ears heard, ‘I Fought the Law’ and he got to work.

He produced a demo, in 1964, that would lay the template for his monster hit of 1966 (the subsequent 1964 45 put out on his own Exeter label was a hit in the El Paso area but to my mind it is flatter, less resonant than the wonderful demo below).

it’s obvious that Bobby has been listening to the likes of The Ventures and Dick Dale as well as good old Buddy.

Now El Paso knew just how great a song this was.

All the elements of a classic were now in place.

What Bobby and the song needed now was a more punchy recording in a better studio along with national distribution and publicity.

Enter Bob Keane of Del Fi and Mustang Records who had lost his brightest star, Ritchie Valens, in the same crash that took away Buddy.

Setting up in Los Angeles Bobby, brother Randy (bass) Jim Reese (guitar) and DeWayne Quirico on drums laid down an all time rock ‘n’ roll classic that has the drive of the 50s forefathers with added 60s colour and brightness.

This one takes off like a dragster and smashes through the winning tape still accelerating.

Once this one got heard on the radio there was no stopping it and by mid March 1966 it was a top 10 hit.

 

 

I make that 132 seconds of Rock ‘n Roll bliss!

Sheer Bliss.

Of course, I can’t think of a occasion I’ve put this on my turntable and played it only once!

Eight years after that sandstormy day, at last, the royalties began to flow for Sonny Curtis.

A true message always gets through.

Always.

Now, you would think such a triumph would presage a stellar future for Bobby – especially as he was such a clued up musician, strong vocalist and a brilliant live performer.

However, those dreams died, in very dubious circumstances indeed, when in July 1966 Bobby was found, asphyxiated and doused in petrol in his car.

The official verdict was suicide.

It seems highly likely that it was malign forces, outside the Law, who took Bobby’s life away and shattered a very promising career.

Time moved on and music went through many phases.

British Beat. Folk Rock. Pyschedelia, Country Rock, Prog Rock, Glam Rock.

By the mid 70s in London a new generation of musicians and incendiary would be musicians intuited that it was time to get back to basics and hit the stage at a hundred miles and hour and let the audience catch up if they could.

Punk Rock was a two fingered salute to the worthy, corporate, Rock establishment.

Get out of the way!

Move it on over!

A new Gang’s in Town.

And, pogoing furiously in clubs all over London, it seemed to me that the coolest Gang and the one which truly understood the essence of real Rock ‘n Roll was The Clash.

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Joe Strummer, Mick Jones, Paul Simonon and Topper Headon.

Joe and Mick took a trip to San Francisco in mid 78 to work on the second Clash album, ‘Give ‘Em Enough Rope’.

The Automatt Studio was furnished with vintage Jukeboxes and the record the needle dropped on the most for Joe and Mick was none other than Bobby Fuller’s I Fought The Law.

A true message always gets through.

I Fought the Law, in July 1979, would be the first Clash single issued in America and their first track to gain significant radio AirPlay.

This is truly a magnificent racket!

This one uses premium rocket fuel.

Best to strap yourself in before hitting the play button here!

 

I imagine it never occurred to Sonny that a bunch of West London Bad Boys would really whip up a Wild West Texas Typhoon on that song he wrote 21 years before!

Nor, that a bunch of American Rebels, The Stray Cats, would find their feet in London perfecting a raunchy Rockabilly attack that could ensure any song they took on would leave earth’s gravity in a single bound.

Brian Setzer, Lee Rocker and Slim Jim Phantom palyed with such sheer Joy in their live shows.

Whenever they played near me I was at the head of the queue and ready to elbow my way to my preferred front row centre stage spot!

The message still gets through.

 

 

Oh yes.

The message still gets through.

Crosing Continents and Oceans.

Vaulting Mountains.

Wherever there’s a bunch of musicians who need to ride the whirlwind the message gets through.

It came through on a clear channel to Mano Negra who fell on it like ravenous wolves howling at The Moon.

Ojo! Ojo! Ojo!

This Train ain’t gonna stop – stand well clear or you’ll get your head blown clean off!

 

 

And, if you’ve got your head blown off the least you can do is dance until the rest of your body runs out of blood to pump.

So, to conclude lets rock the joint with two scorching live takes on I Fought the Law.

First off The Clash flash flooding the senses.

Now, the man who put his stamp all over this song for all eternity – Bobby Fuller (dig those groovy dancers all you hep cats and kittens!).

 

One last word of advice to all you Bad Boys and Bad Girls out there – forget going robbing with a Zip Gun, a Six Gun or a Shotgun.

If you fight the law you’ll find the law wins.

No, get yourself a six string and crank it up to 11 and sing with all your heart for Sonny Curtis and Bobby Fuller:

I fought the law and the law won
I fought the law and the law won.

I fought the law and the law won
I fought the law and the law won.

Notes :

Other versions of I Fought the Law I approve of you might care to check out :

Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty, Nanci Griffith with The Crickets, John Mellancamp, Mike Ness, The Grateful Dead.

Bobby Fuller – His tragic death was a great loss to music.

In many ways he’s the musical bridge between Buddy Holly and John Fogerty of Creedence Clearwater Revival.

I have two Box Sets ‘Never To Be Forgotten’ from Del Fi and ‘Texas Tapes Revisited’ – both crammed with rocking gems.

Sonny Curtis – Though I Fought the Law is his most valuable copyrighted Song Sonny has penned several other significant Songs including, ‘Walk Right Back’ for The Everly Brothers.

 

 

Doug Sahm, Garland Jeffreys, ? and the Mysterians : 96 Tears

‘One day Frank started playing a little organ riff and we all really liked it a lot. I kinda came up with the chord riff … then Question Mark said he had words for it … I thought he was just singing off the top of his head.’ (Bobby Balderrama)

The 1960s, as any Baby Boomer will tell you, was the decade when Rock and Pop music peaked.

A tidal wave of creative energy was unleashed which is never likely to be matched.

Pick any week from the Billboard Hot 100 chart from the 1960s and you’ll be near overwhelmed by the number of truly great records you’ll find (and the memories they’ll generate).

Competition was fierce.

So, to ascend to the coveted Number One spot was a real achievement.

Take the top 5 for the last week in October 1966.

Pure Pop for Now people from The Monkees with, ‘Last Train to Clarkesville’.

A deep Soul cry (from the Ghetto, from the battlefields of Vietnam, from a tragic Lover’s heart) roared out by The Four Tops with, ‘Reach Out, I’ll Be There’.

An aching morality tale from Johnny Rivers with, ‘Poor Side of Town’ (previously featured here on The Jukebox).

An unfathomably deep, nay eternal, Pop Classic from 16 year old Michael Brown and The Left Banke with, ‘Walk Away Renee’ (also featured on The Jukebox).

Phew!

What record could possibly have kept those masterworks from the very summit of the charts?

Well, a record cut by a bunch of unknown Mexican-American teenagers from Michigan, with a lead singer known only by the ? symbol (where do you think Prince got the idea!) that will thrill the soul as long as there is electricity or some other means to power a Jukebox!

Too many teardrops for one heart to be crying!

Too many teardrops for one heart to carry on!

You’re gonna cry 96 tears!

You’re gonna cry 96 tears!

 

 

Watch Out Now!

Watch Out Now!

Cuidado Ahora!

Cuidado Ahora!

So, you take an insanely catchy organ riff, played on a Vox Continental or a Farfisa Combo Compact depending on which authority you believe, an increasingly crazed vocal extolling the sheer delight of anticipated romantic revenge (and who hasn’t felt that in their life?) a tempo that locks your attention in and you’ve got yourself a monster Hit!

This is Punk before Punk.

This is a wonderfully grimy garage classic just reeking of the greasepit.

This is a voodoo Mexican Folk Ballad.

This is pure unadulterated Rock ‘n’ Roll.

96 Tears lasts less than 3 minutes playing time.

Yet, I guarantee that everyone who hears it is chanting out:

’You’re gonna cry 96 Tears, You’re Gonna Cry 96 Tears, You’re gonna cry, cry, cry now’

with infinite gusto long before the 3 minutes has elapsed.

The definitive organ riff came from Frank Rodriguez who was all of 13 when 96 Tears was recorded in the Spring of 1966.

The guitarist was founding Mysterian Bobby Balderrama.

Eddie Serrano sat on the Drum Stool.

Bass was played by Fernando Aguilar.

The signature vocal was by the one and only hyper imaginative Question Mark ? 

GIven his determination to be known by this name alone I’ve resolved to use only this name throughout.

The Mysterians all came from families that had followed the lure of employment and the Dollar Bill from Mexico taking in fruit picking before securing jobs in the Michigan Auto Plants.

They started out playing instrumentals in the dramatic style of Duane Eddy and Link Wray. When the British Invasion hit and as they watched Shindig and American Bandstand they realised they had to have a dynamic lead singer and that a powerful organ sound hit home every time.

Once Frank came up with the immortal riff they approached Lilly Gonzalez, a luminary of the local Mexican community, who found them a small recording studio and pressed up 500 copies of 96 Tears on her own Pa-Go-Go label.

The song was then take  up by a relay of Radio Stations until demand became so great that Cameo Parkway took over and drove the single all the way to Number One!

My favourite moment in the song is the line where Question Mark ? momentarily pauses for breath before slamming home the killer line:

’And when the sun comes up I’ll be on top – You’ll be right down there looking up’.

Take that!

Now, it is a truth universally to be acknowledged that all Jukeboxes are in want of a Record which will get everyone onto their feet to dance furiously while rattling the walls and windows shouting out the chorus.

I think we can all agree that 96 Tears absolutely fulfils this need.

Which is why 96 Tears must take its place on The Immortal Jukebox as (what else) A 96.

Now, once such a Record is issued all over this wicked world gangs of young musicians hear it and think, ‘That will suit us very nicely indeed’.

The lead singer gets ready to hyperventilate and the organist thinks – they think they know how the organ goes on this one but they haven’t heard my version yet!

If they’re not in possession of an organ, Vox or Farfisa, the guitarist thinks – I’m gonna tear this one up so completely that no one will even remember there was an organ on the original.

Watch Out Now!

Watch Out Now!

Cuidad Ahora!

Cuidad Ahora!

A true message always gets through.

So, in 1976, frequenting London’s The Nashville and 100 Club venues I encountered a testosterone topped up the max outfit called Eddie and the Hot Rods who went full pelt at songs like, ‘Gloria’ and, ‘Get Out of Denver’ before thrashing the life out of 96 Tears.

Here’s their, ‘Live at The Marquee’ version from 1976 – I think I may have lost a few pounds while this one played and needed to sink a fair few pints to restore balance.

Such is Youth (and Thank God for it!)

The message certainly got through to Brooklyn.

That’s where Garland Jeffreys grew up listening to every style of music with a keen ear and  the determination to meld these styles together in his own songwriting and performances.

Garland Jeffreys is one of those secret heroes of music whose prominent influence and regard among musicians is in stark contrast to his stature among the general record buying public.

Be assured The Jukebox will feature a  considered tribute to him later.

For now let’s enjoy his distinctive take on 96 Tears.

The Band really got their groove happening here!

 

A true message always gets through.

And there was no more true hearted custodian of American Music than Doug Sahm – who is always warmly welcomed at The Jukebox.

Whenever Doug got together with Freddie Fender,  Augie Myers and Flaco Jimenez the music flowed and everybody got to have a glorious party.

Let’s take 96 Tears down South to Texas with Doug and his faithful compadres.

They sure shake the flavour all over every one of those 96 Tears!

Too many teardrops for one heart to be crying.

Too many teardrops for one heart to carry on.

Oh, oh, oh, believe me, when the sun comes up …

You’re Gonna cry 96 Tears.

Youre gonna cry 96 Tears.

96 Tears.

96 Tears.

I’m gonna  count every one.

Every single one.

96 Tears.

96 Tears.

 

 

Notes :

? and The Mysterains predictably fell foul of Music Biz moguls which resulted in long drawn out litigation, inadequate financial reward and a very messy discography.

However, there is a now a substantial collection of their Cameo Parkway material which amply demonstrates they were far more than one hit wonders.

Other versions to look out for are by:

Big Maybelle

Thelma Houston

Suicide

David Byrne & Richard Thompson

The Stranglers

Jonathan Richman and The Modern Lovers.

The Kinks, The Pretenders (and more!) : Stop Your Sobbing

The Kinks debut LP was rush released in October 1964 to capitalise on the enormous success of their third single, ‘You Really Got Me’ which shot to Number 1 in the UK Charts in mid September before hitting the Top 10 in the U.S.A.

You Really Got Me is the standout track from the LP.

Of course it bears saying that it was also one of the greatest and most influential recordings of the 1960s.

It exploded into the consciousness of listeners and fellow musicians all over the globe searing synapses with its astounding energy.

Dave Davies’ guitar solo, a product of fire and fury and a slashed little green amp, remains one of the most seismic ever recorded.

The Kinks couldn’t match the intensity of that performance on the other 13 tracks that made up, ‘The Kinks’.

Lightning is not caught in a botte to order.

11 of the other cuts on the LP are covers of Rock ‘n’ Roll and R&B classics from the likes of Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley and Slim Harpo.

The Kinks approach to these songs is not that of knowing reverential devotees like The Rolling Stones.

Rather,  The Kinks come at these songs slant wise and when their feral energy locks in the results can be tremendously exciting.

But, as Ray Davies knew in his bones, the core of his and The Kinks creative energy was an amalgam of his (correct) sense that he was not like everybody else and thus an ideal observer of the world around him coupled with deep fraternal harmony only exceeded by fierce fraternal dischord.

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The Kinks and Ray Davies in particular didn’t dream of being American.

Though they loved American Music and were inspired by it they sensed their own songs, if they were to have authenticity and authority, would have to be reflective of their own lives – reflecting Muswell Hill rather than Blueberry Hill.

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The song on that debut record that demonstrated that Ray Davies and The Kinks could convey nuanced emotions and beguile an audience,  as well as exhaust them,  was the only other Ray Davies original present, ‘Stop Your Sobbing’.

 

 

Pure Pop for Now People!

Well … Pure Pop in the fragile melody and tremulous arrangement.

Pure Pop in the way Rasa Davies’ ghostly backing vocals shadow Ray’s lead.

Pure Pop in the way Dave Davies’ chiming guitar rhymes with our hearts as the song progresses.

Pure Pop in the way Pete Quaife and Mick Avory unobtrusively hold everything together.

But, but .. not so Pure in the emotional nuances of Ray Davies’ lyric and vocal.

Is he appalled by all the sobbing?

Or is he fascinated?

Does the sobbing turn him off or turn him on?

Is he a mixed up, frustrated, Lover or a disinterested observer carefully recording how the emotions play out?

Remember this is Ray Davies –  a man of passion who is also a man of reflection and contemplation.

A Lover who can’t stop being a Loner.

A writer who has that chip of ice in the heart that tells him, whatever the situation, to observe and record.

Observe, record and remember.

There’s a Song in this. There’s a Song in this.

Ray Davies never was and never will be just like everybody else.

And,  savvy songwriters with a sense of the history of  Pop songwriting  know that Ray Davies is a master of the craft.

A savvy songwriter like Chrissie Hynde who wanted the world to know she was special. That there was nobody else here and now like her.

She just had to have our attention and she was going to use all her resources to make sure she got it.

Most of all she was going to draw upon the deep well of her imagination.

An imagination that could relish the role reversal of a sassy woman singing, ‘Stop Your Sobbing’ and singing the hell out of it.

 

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Singing with the seductive charm of oh, oh,  won’t you be my baby, Ronnie Spector.

Singing with the, you sure gotta lot of gall,  dismissiveness of Bob Dylan.

Singing with the,  Oh No, no, no, no, no,  dramatic soliloquy intensity, of The Shagri Las’ Mary Weiss.

Singing so our attention is immediately captured and never released.

Singing that inspired highly imaginative guitar playing from James Honeyman-Scott.

Nick Lowe produced The Pretenders version of Stop Your Sobbing in late 1979 but amazingly he thought they ‘were going nowhere’ and stepped away.

Nick, Nick, Nick – you got that one one Wrong!

The Pretenders proved to be unstoppable Hit Makers.

They had Style and they had Swagger and big time success with a Songwriter and Singer like Chrisie Hynde was guaranteed.

 

 

Now, if we are trawling the annals of  modern songwriting for the, ‘Not like everybody else’ category there’s one thing we gotta do – call up the unique sensibility of Jonathan Richman!

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Checkout Jonathan’s crazy campfire singalong version!

Get groovin’ to that addictive rhythm!

You can’t listen to Jonathan,when he’s in this kind of form, and not feel wonderfully refreshed and cheered

 

 

Another Songwriter with style and imagination, Pete Yorn, found, ‘Stop Your Sobbing’ getting under the skin.

I’ll leave you with a charmingly understated vocal duet version featuring Scarlett Johansson.

 

 

Their smiles at the end say it all.

Ray Davies recorded Stop Your Sobbing more than half a Century ago.

I think its good for another 50 years at least.