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.

Ian Dury & The Blockheads : Reasons to be Cheerful (Part 3)

For most of last week as I took my early morning walk up the Ridge Top I all but vanished into an all encompassing Fog.

Confident in the way I have trod so often and leaning on my staff I pressed on.

I love the wreathing silence of the Fog and the air’s damp embrace.

High above the hidden sun would surely appear and the Fog would withdraw as silently as it advanced.

Descending, I met one of the local Farmers who said as he looked askance at the Fog and me – ‘Reasons to be Cheerful – Eh?’.

He was not a little taken aback when instead of responding with a pat motto I launched into the opening of Ian Dury’s late 70s leery litany of Reasons to be Cheerful;

‘Some of Buddy Holly, the working folly, Good Golly Miss Molly and boats!’

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‘Working folly is right enough, right enough! says he.

From the early, early mornin’ to the early, early night says I.

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And, as I bad him farewell I vanished back into the Fog my voice ebbing away singing:

‘Hammersmith Palais, the Bolshoi Ballet, Jump back in the alley and nanny goats!’

Let’s cede to Ian Dury now in his persona of part pirate king, part fairground carney, part ‘ain’t he awful’ top of the bill music hall maestro and all around diamond geezer leading his magnificent troupe of musicians The Blockheads in a proper celebration of the oh so many reasons to be Cheerful.

One, Two, Three ….

 

OY, OY ! OY, OY!

Ian Dury truly was a diamond geezer.

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Diamond like in the brilliance of his mind and talent as a lyricist and performer but also diamond like in the hardness of his resolve and the sharpness with which he could slice apart the ego of anyone foolish enough to imagine they could out banter him.

He could, according to his mood and alcohol intake, be the most brilliant raconteur and most charming man you could ever hope to meet or a manipulative demon searching out weaknesses with laser like focus.

Surviving Polio from childhood and the mental, emotional and physical savagery of subsequent boarding school left an enduring mark on his soul.

He was saved through his innate toughness, his intelligence and sharp wit.

Exposure to the discipline of a Painter’s necessary painstaking observation at Art School and the riotous anarchy of 50s Rock ‘n’ Roll informed an aesthetic credo which also took in the craftsmanship of Cole Porter, the rumbustious energy of Charles Mingus, the end of the pier vulgarity of Max Miller and the surreal style of Max Wall.

All carried off with a uniquely English ribald humour and brio.

The songs were the product of rich talent and the long labours of a true craftsman always searching for the exact word, the proper rhythm.

Some have said that, ‘Reasons ..’ is merely a shopping list song – well as Ian Dury observed, ‘You try writing one then!’.

Cole Porter wrote one in, ‘You’re the Top’ and there’s no doubt in my mind that Ian Dury would fit right into that song’s list of exemplary excellence along with Napoleon Brandy, Mahatma Gandhi, the Mona Lisa and Mickey Mouse!

Of course his undoubted genius as a lyricist needed The Blockheads for the songs to take flight in the studio and on stage.

The most important figure here was Chaz Jankel whose melodic inventiveness and rhythmic assurance made for irresistible songs that permanently branded themselves into the imagination and heart of the listener.

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Norman Watt Roy, Charely Charles and Davey Payne had the magical ability to meld the sound of Memphis Soul, English Music Hall and Free Jazz into a seamless funky whole.

And, with Ian as the louche and lecherous ringmaster centre stage they were an enthralling  live band seemingly inexhaustibly inventive and endlessly committed to maintaining a groove that just wouldn’t quit.

One, Two, Three …

Why don’t you get back into bed
Why don’t you get back into bed
Why don’t you get back into bed
Why don’t you get back into bed
Why don’t you get back into bed
Why don’t you get back into bed
Why don’t you get back into bed
Why don’t you get back into bed
Why don’t you get back into bed
Why don’t you get back into bed
 
Reasons to be cheerful part 3
1 2 3
Some of Buddy Holly, the working folly
Good golly Miss Molly and boats
Hammersmith Palais, the Bolshoi Ballet
Jump back in the alley and nanny goats
 
18-wheeler Scammels, Domenecker camels
All other mammals plus equal votes
Seeing Piccadilly, Fanny Smith and Willy
Being rather silly, and porridge oats
 
A bit of grin and bear it, a bit of come and share it
You’re welcome, we can spare it – yellow socks
Too short to be haughty, too nutty to be naughty
Going on 40 – no electric shocks
 
The juice of the carrot, the smile of the parrot
A little drop of claret – anything that rocks
Elvis and Scotty, days when I ain’t spotty,
Sitting on the potty – curing smallpox
 
Reasons to be cheerful part 3
Reasons to be cheerful part 3
Reasons to be cheerful part 3
Reasons to be cheerful part 3
1 2 3
 
Reasons to be cheerful part 3
Health service glasses
Gigolos and brasses
Round or skinny bottoms
 
Take your mum to Paris
Lighting up the chalice
Wee Willy Harris
Bantu Stephen Biko, listening to Rico
Harpo, Groucho, Chico
 
Cheddar cheese and pickle, the Vincent motorsickle
Slap and tickle
Woody Allen, Dali, Dimitri and Pasquale
Balabalabala and Volare
Something nice to study, phoning up a buddy
Being in my nuddy
 
Saying okey-dokey, Sing Along With Smokey
Coming out of chokey
John Coltrane’s soprano, Adi Celentano
Bonar Colleano
 
Reasons to be cheerful part 3
Reasons to be cheerful part 3
Reasons to be cheerful part 3
Reasons to be cheerful part 3
1 2 3
 
Yes yes
Dear dear
Perhaps next year
Or maybe even never
In which case
 
Reasons to be cheerful part 3
Reasons to be cheerful part 3
Reasons to be cheerful part 3
Reasons to be cheerful part 3
1:2,3
 
Reasons to be cheerful part 3
Reasons to be cheerful part 3
Reasons to be cheerful part 3
Reasons to be Cheerful – 1,2,3.

 

 

And, as a homage from me to Ian, here’s some further Reasons to be Cheerful (Part 4) :

Shredded Wheat and Did those feet …. Jimmy Greaves and Bicycle Thieves …

All of Buddy Holly – two cones and a Lolly ….

Red Socks and grandfather clocks … The Ragman’s Daughter and a pint of Porter ..

Sons and Lovers and a Four through the covers …

Beckett Sam and Blueberry Jam .. Ginger Rogers and the Brooklyn Dodgers ..

Dave Mackay and The Sheltering Sky .. Winterreise and a bottle of Tizer ..

A Citroen DS and The Orient Express .. Gerard Manley and Holloway Stanley ..

Ulysses S Grant and seeing things aslant … Redwing Boots and Pressure Drop Toots ..

Montgomery Clift and the Berlin Airlift … Martin and Vincent … Redgrave and Pinsent.

Reasons to be Cheerful.

Reasons to be Cheerful.

Notes :

I decided not to provide an annotated listeners guide here for Ian’s references and my own.  See what Mr Google tells you and you’ll learn a lot!

Happy Birthday Don Everly! Singing beyond Singing.

Note : This Post is best read in conjunction with the previously published,’Phil Everly Remembered’ from January 2017.

Don Everly was born on February 1st 1937

Don is the elder of the two brothers – almost two years older than Phil.

When they started out on the radio singing before they went to elementary school they were billed as, ‘LIttle Donnie and Baby Boy Phil’.

Don had the deeper baritone tenor voice.

Phil had a pure strong tenor and generally harmonised one third above Don.

Together, singing in harmony for decades, they achieved an ambrosial sound that has never been matched in popular music.

When they started to record it was Don who played the punchy rhythm guitar licks that signalled that though deeply grounded in Country Music these young men were true Rock ‘n’ Rollers who had been listening to the thunderous groove of Bo Diddley.

That influence is unmistakeable from the intro to their breakthrough single ‘Bye, Bye Love’.

As no lesser an authority than Keith Richard put it :

’Don’s acoustic guitar, that rhythm guitar, was rocking man! I guess that rubbed off on me’.

Here’s Don and Phil at their epic, ‘Reunion Concert’ from 1983 showing that they had lost none of their instrumental and vocal potency.

Sadness never sweeter.

Bye, bye Love.

Bye, bye, Happiness

Hello Loneliness.

I think I’m gonna Cry.

Bye, bye Love.

It was generally Don who sang the solo parts in Everly Brothers songs.

There was a quality in his voice, a seeming deep acquaintance with the heartaches that assail us all, that never fails to move me deeply.

And, when he and Phil found a song like, ‘All I Have To Is Dream’ they graduated from being upcoming hit makers into an immortal presence in millions of hearts.

Gee whiz. Gee whiz.

Dream, dream, dream.

In 1960 Don wrote, ‘So Sad (To Watch Good Love Go Bad)’ allowing The Everly’s to demonstrate their unparalleled control of the slow harmony ballad.

Teddy Thompson (Richard & Linda’s son) said that he had spent thirty years seat hing for singers as good as The Everly Brothers before realising that it was an impossible pursuit.

Who could argue with the truth of that verdict?

Inevitably, two brothers who have been singing together since early childhood will have fallings out and Tne Everlys, deeply contrasting personalities, certainly did.

Working apart tney both made fine records.

I’ve chosen to showcase here a sublime duet recording of a Louvin Brothers song Don cut with Emmylou Harris.

I remember the first time I heard this thinking – Emmylou is a magnificent singer and a great harmoniser but Don Everly, Don Everly! has clearly been blessed with a gift that is  very rare indeed.

A gift that he shared in such generous measure with all of us.

Happy Birthday Don.

Thanks for all the songs and all the singing.

I’ll conclude with an Everly Brothers performance of, ‘Kentucky’.

This is singing that goes beyond singing.

Singing that is the heart in pilgrimage and the soul in paraphrase.

The dearest land outside of Heaven.

Heaven.

The Kinks : Days (Thank You For …)

Here is is.

Another Day.

One Day.

One among the unknown number alloted to you.

Bless the light.

Another sacred day.

Yours to do with what you will.

This Day won’t, can’t come again – though you may remember it for every Day you have left to live.

Bless the Light.

Today is all we have and whatever happens today you have the absolute existential freedom to choose how you act, how your react, to whatever this Day brings.

Bless the light.

And, when you come to the end of this Day you will have much to give thanks for – not least that the lightning bolt of death has stayed sheathed in the heavens.

Give thanks for the day that is done and pray that tomorrow will dawn for you and gift you one more sacred day.

Bless the light.

And, as you walk through the world of your alloted days you will find that the steps of others will from time to time fall in step with yours.

If you are very fortunate you will find that another’s steps will match yours for mile after mile after mile and that if you lose your footing and fall behind they will stay their steps until you catch up.

Thank you for the Days.

I won’t forget a single day believe me.

Bless the light.

There will be guides and spirits along the way who will befriend and show you t e way before going their own way.

On this road of Days you will find that those who once walked so companionably by your side now seem to marched ahead or taken another turn to take them out of sight.

Yet, as you come to give thanks for another Day of your alloted number you can give thanks for the miles you shared and wish them well wherever they are on the highway of their own Days.

The night is dark and sorrow comes to us all so give thanks for the Days you shared.

Thank you for the Days.

Those sacred days.

Bless the light.

Don’t forget a single Day.

A single Day.

 

Another bitter sweet classic from the pen of Ray Davies brought to vivid, shimmering life by The Kinks.

One of the hallmarks of Ray’s greatness as a songwriter is the ability to tell stories distilling complex emotions we all share into endlessly satisfying three minute vignettes which are faithful both the joy and the sadness in our lives.

Ray has acknowledged that a songwriter is frequently, at the time a song is created, unaware of the effect it will have on its audience :

The song has grown in intensity over the years … you don’t think about it, but it’s built up quite a mystique over the years. It certainly left me. It belongs to the world now.’

That’ll do for me as the definition of a great song!

The beauty of the lyric, tenderly evocative but unspecific, is that will be apposite for so many of us in so many times and stations of our lives.

Recollection of those sacred days will always as the days pass have elements of regret.

Loss and sorrow are not to be feared in this world – they come with the territory.

The song starts as an almost busked folk song before building to a tremendous crescendo    as the piano, drums and harmony vocals take the song deep into our hearts.

And, as we will see below, it’s a song that can even surprise its author with its keening power.

In 2010 Ray Davies played the Glastonbury Festival just after the death of Pete Quaife, the Bass player in the original Kinks lineup.

Pete Quaife had quit The Kinks just after ‘Days’ was recorded so playing the song must have had particular resonance for Ray as he looked out on the thronged audience (each of whom will have had their own days to remember and bless as they sang along).

Bless the light.

Thank you for the Days.

Those sacred Days.

 

 

 

Beach Boys, The Who, Jan and Dean (not forgetting The Regents) : Barbara Ann

Keen readers of The Jukebox will recall that in a previous Post (featuring the song, ‘Do You Want to Dance?) I revealed that my exhaustive researches in; theology,the classics, the canon of great literature, modern psychology and neuroscience had led me to the inescapable conclusion that there were only five essential questions to be asked, and answered, in Life.

I can now tell you, prior to the publication of, ‘The 5 questions every life must answer‘ that one of these is … ‘What’s your Name?’

Who am I? Who are You?

Names are very powerful signifiers.

More powerful and mysterious in their effects on our lives than we generally allow.

At some point in my mid teens I became, ‘Thom’ instead of ‘Thomas’ or, ‘Tom’ (I would never, never, allow, ‘Tommy’) to differentiate myself from all the other Toms – as well as the Dicks and Harrys.

By insisting on a particular spelling of my name I was establishing a particular identity for myself.

An identity to embrace and challenge the world with.

Of course, in the world of the creative arts changes of name are common to signal a move from the private into the public and commercial realms.

There was a particular moment in time when someone asked the young Robert Zimmerman what his name was and after a micro second of hesitation the reply came, ‘Bob Dylan’ and a legend began.

In the realm of romance the question, ‘What’s your Name?’ starts that crazy carousel spinning, spinning, spinning.

As the wonderful Don and Juan, in their Doo-Wop classic from 1962 observed the thought behind the question is frequently : ‘Do I stand a chance with you?’.

Once you’re aboard the carousel you’ll find that the name of your beloved will take on sacred properties and hearing your own name spoken by them will constitute a new christening.

So, here’s a Post about a song that celebrates a particular name with abounding Joy.

Not forgetting to mention the power of familial love and discord, car crashes, comas, the collision of music genres, fate and happenstance, huckstering marketing and genius goofing off.

Or, to put it another way as The Regents first sang (and I defy you not to sing along, I’ll hold down the bass, you take the falsetto) :

‘Ba ba ba ba Barbara Ann

Ba ba ba ba Barbara Ann’

Image result for the regents doo wop group images

‘Ba ba ba ba Barbara Ann (take my hand)

Ba ba ba ba Barbara Ann

Ba ba ba ba Barbara Ann

Ba ba ba ba Barbara Ann

You’ve got me rockin’ and a -rollin’

Rockin’ and a reelin’

Barbara Ann

Ba ba ba ba Barbara Ann’

Yowzah! Yowzah! Yowzah!

That’ll have you dancing ’til a quarter to three and then some.

I think we can agree the brothers Fassert and The Regents did Barbara Ann proud.

Mighty proud.

How The Regents came to have a top 20 hit with the song is a saga in itself.

Originally in 1957 they were The Monterays and included among their members Ernie Moresca who went on to Rock ‘n Roll immortality through writing, ‘The Wanderer’ for Dion.

Ernie dropped out and they became The Regents (they may also have been briefly known as The Desires).

They then recorded a series of unreleased demos in New York recording studios in 1958 (one of these, significantly for our story, was Regent Studios).

Core members were Guy Villari on lead (whose preferred cigarette brand was Regent), Sal Cuomo (first tenor), Tony Gravanga (baritone and Sax), Donnie Jacobucci (baritone) and Chuck Fassert (second tenor).

During one of their 1 hour demo sessions they spent 50 minutes running down a ballad, written by Guy Villari, called, ‘A Teenager’s Love’ and wondered what to do with their precious remaining 10 minutes of studio time.

What about that song written by Chuck’s kid brother Fred about their kid sister, ‘Barbara Ann’ – it was always a kick to warm up to and who knows maybe people would like it even if it was basically just the repetition of her name over and over again!

So in 10 minutes it was wrapped up and a waiting world … heard not a whisper of it as 50 or more Record Labels said, Barbara Ann – no thanks!

And, that is where the story might have ended.

But, as fate would have it, in 1961 it happened that Donnie Jacobucci’s younger brother, Eddie, joined a group called The Consorts who were looking for material to record.

Eddie remembered, ‘Barbara Ann’ and taught it to his fellow Consorts who then cut their own version.

This was brought to the attention of Lou Cichetti of the Cousins Record Shop and Label. Sharp eared Lou also listened to the Regents demo which had been brought in by the original songwriter,Fred Fassert.

Lou was in no doubt which was the superior version (Fred was a winner either way) and promptly decided to issue The Regents version in March 1961.

This necessitated their urgent resurrection once the tune sped to Number One in the New York region after being heavily played on the radio.

Lou, aware that the record needed national distribution, leased it to Roulette/Gee who pushed it all the way to Number 13 on the Billboard Hot 100.

So, the fruit of 10 minutes work paid off handsomely – though it took 3 years to do so!

The Regents would only have one more hit, ‘Runaround’ in September 1961 but, ‘Barbara Ann’ would never die!

Once a song, particularly a Doo Wop song, got wide radio play hordes of young singers thought – we could do that!

Among those tuning in to, ‘Barbara Ann’ were two California High School buddies, Jan Berry and Dean Torrence.

Jan and Dean found that their voices had a pleasing blend and that Dean had a knack for capturing multi part vocal arrangements on tape (which would later bring him to the attention of and to collaborate with another California native more than somewhat obsessed with multi part vocal arrangements – one Brian Wilson).

Their career benefited from the patronage of Herb Alpert and Lou Adler and Dean’s astute insights into song structures and song genres.

He quickly picked up how well their Doo Wop chops would fit with the burgeoning Surf Music scene.

It also didn’t hurt that they had a clean cut tanned handsomeness that looked real swell on record covers and posters ripe for the bedroom walls of teenage girls all over the nation.

Surf City, in 1963 was the first Surf song to ride all the way to the top of the Hot 100 while the succeeding, ‘Drag City’, ‘The Little Old Lady from Pasadena’ and the prophetic, ‘Dead Man’s Curve’ (Jan Berry had a terrible car crash in April 1966 sustaining serous head injuries which left him in a coma for 2 months) carved out a secure place in history for the duo.

In 1962 they had laid down their take on, ‘Barbara Ann’ which they no doubt sang when they shared stages with the Beach Boys – who were of course the High Kings of the Surf Scene.

Altogether more produced and assured than The Regents.

I’m sure this will have gone down a storm on the beach party scene.

The Drums here really drive things along and the assures layering of the vocals with the clinching sax break makes this a cert for the repeat play button.

By the summer of 1965 The Beach Boys had already issued 2 successful Albums as well as holding down a heavy touring schedule.

However, Capitol Records wanted more.

Tney didn’t really want to hear that resident genius Brian Wilson, in response to hearing The Beatles rapid development as represented on Rubber Soul, had ambitions to write, sing and produce material of an altogether more sophisticated nature.

To hold off Capitol while Pet Sounds coelesed in his mind and soul a plan was hatched to record a largely acoustic live in the studio party session where they would cut loose on a series of favourite songs – including Barbara Ann on which their old friend Dean Torrence would share lead vocals.

We should also never forget the contribution of percussion potentate Hal Blaine on ashtrays!

You want loose?

You want a party?

Ah … Ba ba ba ba Barbara Ann …

 

Loose but very lovely.

And, before the personalities began to grind against each other to all their detriment an example of family and friends having a whale of a time together.

Classily Capitol’s marketing strategy for, ‘Party!’ included sending dealers a million (!) bags of Potato chips adorned with the album’s cover art for distribution to the ravening fans.

Barbara Ann was the last track on the record as originally issued and was not chosen as the single.

Instead a non album 45,’The Little Girl I Once Knew’ hit the playlists in November and was roundly disliked by DJs and Station managers as it included repeated instances of silence throughout.

So, as fate (ah fate) would have it DJs turned to the track on the Album that seemed likely to get the best response.

You’ve guessed it Barbara Ann.

Thus, it became very hard to turn on your radio  and not hear, blasting out at full volume …Ba ba ba ba Barbara Ann!

All the way to Number 2 and eternally into the memsory of anyone who ever heard it.

Now, apart from the extremely hardy and commited few, Surfing as a pastime, still less  a culture was largely unknown to us Brits.

But, only those with their radios steadfastly tuned to classical stations were unaware of The Beach Boys.

And, musicians and songwriters in particular were in awe of Brian Wilson’s melodic gifts and conceptual imagInation.

No one will be surprised to learn that Paul McCartney was stunned by Brian’s talents and driven to match them in songs and arrangements of his own.

An unexpected Beach Boys devotee was none other than one of the true wild men of the era –  the iconic drummer of Tne Who Keith Moon!

It’s fair to say that Keith’s gifts as a singer are dwarfed by his gifts at the drum kit yet there is something immensely touching listening to him assay, ‘Barbara Ann’in his unique falsetto.

 

Lordy, Lordy.

Of course, once Daltrey, Townshend and Entwhistle cut loose in support of their sticksman there can be no getting out of the landslide that was The Who at full throttle.

Rockin’ and a rollin’ Rockin’ and a rellin’ indeed!

Slight though Barbara Ann is in the glorious Beach Boys treasure trove it recurred in their live shows  simply because everybody can sing along and it’s just flat out FUN.

When they toured on 2012 to celebrate a staggering 50 years as a Group tney invariably encored with Barbara Ann and duly brought the house down.

It seemed that tour was the last time Brian and Mike Love were on speaking terms.

So for the good times ….

To conclude as we started with the power of names : we know how pretty, pretty, Peggy Sue was and we are always happy to hear from BIllie Jean and indeed from Bobby Jean and  the party is always guaranteed to go with a swing when Fannie Mae calls round.

Still and all nothing gets me stirred like :

Ba ba ba ba Barbara Ann

Ba ba ba ba Barbara Ann.

Elvis Presley, Tom Jones, (never forgetting Lonnie Donegan!) : It Looks Like I’ll Never Fall in Love Again

In late 1962 the sun was setting on the commercial career of Lonnie Donnegan.

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The man who had run up an astonishing 24 successive top 30 singles (31 in total) including 3 Number Ones in the UK as well as 2 top 10 hits in America, now, it seemed, couldn’t get a hit to save his life.

Perry Como wasn’t calling up to invite him back on his show (where he had appeared alongside Ronald Reagan!).

The man who had strummed the first immortal chords of Rock ‘n’ Roll in Britain with Rock Island Line in 1956 and who had inspired thousands of teenagers to form a Skiffle group found that the caravan of popularity had moved on.

Moved on to the Beat Groups whose members had almost all been electrified, transformed, by listening to Lonnie from the mid 1950s.

Moved on above all to The Beatles.

But the Beat Group Boys never forgot their debt to Lonnie.

Listen to Roger Daltrey of the Who :

‘I wanted to be Elvis  .. I knew that. But the man who really made me feel I could actually go out and do it was Lonnie Donegan’.

Listen to Paul McCartney :

‘He was the first person we had heard of from Britain to get to the coveted No 1 in the charts. We studied his records avidly. We all bought guitars to be in a skiffle group. He was the man.’

Lonnie had adopted his first name in homage to the legendary Jazz/Blues guitarist Lonnie Johnson after the Chris Barber Band shared a Royal Festival Hall Concert with the great man in 1952.

Maybe it was thinking back to Lonnie Johnson’s smooth vocal delivery and elegiac tone on songs from the 1930s and his own melancholic situation that set Lonnie’s creative juices flowing when he came to write, ‘(It Looks Like) I’m Never Going To Fall in Love Again’.

Lonnie Donegan had developed since boyhood a deep love and understanding of the heritage of American roots music – Folk, Blues, Jazz and Country.

Songs from that treasury swirled about in his memory.

One of those songs was a wistful ballad, ‘Wanderin” or ”I’m Never Going To Cease My Wandering’ which recurred from the 1920s on in versions by Vernon Dalhart, Eddie Arnold and Milt Okun among many others.

Using that template and collaborating with Jimmy Currie he took ‘Wanderin” to the  piano and crafted a timeless classic.

Lonnie didn’t have the vocal prowess to sell the song in the bravura manner that it would later receive.

No, his own version is distinguished for me by its hesitant charm.

This is a man, a man wounded by love, singing the song softly, tenderly, to himself in regret after the storm of emotion has largely subsided.

There can be great beauty and sometimes unexpected peace in the stillness after the storm.

The song wasn’t much played on the radio and it wasn’t a hit.

Lonnie carried on playing clubs and cabaret always singing his heart out.

Singing his heart out.

But, like I’ve said here before and will surely say again – a true message always gets through.

Sometimes, it just takes a while.

So, scroll forward four of five years and Lonnie runs into an old friend, Tom Jones, and he thinks – now here was a man who can sell a ballad!

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In Lonnie’s home the two troubadours sat down, no doubt fortified by strong liquor, and talked about songs they had loved growing up.

Lonnie took out, ‘It Looks Like …’ and said.:

‘ Tom, I have this song – you’d sing the pants off it. I recorded it but I can’t really sing it (like you could)’

Tom remembered that, ‘Wanderin” had gone down a storm as a singalong in the pubs of his native Wales.

Listening to Lonnie’s song he knew that the chorus was just made for his own Alpha male full throated style.

And, so it proved.

Tom’s version hit Number 2 in the UK Charts in 1967 and appeared twice on the US Charts – top 50 in ’67 and Number 6 when re released in 1969.

When Tom Jones takes on a ballad you know there will be no half measures.

Tom has vocal power and range aplenty and is capable of bringing shade and nuance to a lyric.

Here, he takes us on a passionate journey through a man’s bewilderment at his current situation.

Though he thought he knew the score and cast aside his pride now, now, he can’t take anymore.

There is time for tears in the wake of lost love.

And, then, it will feel like you’ll never fall in love again.

Yet, Tom’s version has such force, such strength, even in defeat, that you are sure this is a champion who will, though he has to take a count, get up off the canvas and get back in the game again.

The eternal Game of Love.

A true message always gets through.

For there are always those for whom the message seems personal, heaven sent.

So scroll forward to the mid 1970s when Tom Jones appears regularly in Las Vegas.

And, of course, no Tom Jones show is complete without his scintillating take on, ‘It Looks Like ..’.

Frequently in the audience for Tom’s shows is another Vegas Star – in fact the greatest Vegas Star, Elvis Presley.

And, Elvis knows a storming ballad when he hears one.

When Elvis comes to record the song it’s sadly near the end of his storied career.

Now, though he’s still a Lion he’s a Lion in Winter.

So, Elvis brings a depth of melancholy to the song that’s beyond either Tom or Lonnie.

Though his royal robes may have seemed threadbare in those days he was and always would be The King.

And, when a King sings we should all pay full attention for there are many pretenders but only one King.

Only One King.

So, Lonnie’s little regarded song from 1962 had proved a true wonder and before his death in 2002 Lonnie must have reaped some handsome royalty cheques to add to the pride he had in his song writing.

And, that is where I had planned to end this Post.

But, what do I know of the strange forces of synchronicity and serendipity?

For, as I began to write it happened that Lonnie Donegan’s son, Peter, a fine singer and musician in his own right, appeared on the UK talent show, ‘The Voice’ and that also on the show as Judge/Mentor was none other than Tom Jones!

The format of the show involves the Judges listening to the contestants with their chairs turned away from the stage so that they assess purely on the basis of the voice rather than looks and age.

Listening to Peter Tom’s interest was immediately piqued and he was the judge whose chair turned around.

Then, in story book fashion, Tom learned that Peter was the son of his old friend and writer of one of his signature songs – Lonnie Donegan.

And then to make the movie complete Tom and Peter put on a tear inducing impromptu performance of, ‘It Looks Like ..’ that brought the house down.

Somewhere, the shade of Lonnie must have smiled and thought, ‘I told you so …’

 

Notes ;

It is impossible to overestimate the influence of Lonnie Donegan on Rock ‘n’ Roll In Britian.

Billy Bragg’s book, ‘Roots, Radicals and Rockers’ is a fine primer on Lonnie’s role in the Skiffle movement.

Chas McDevitt’s book, ‘Skiffle – The Definitive Inside Story’ is filed with wonderful anecdotes from those who were there.

There are many fine single CD collections of Lonnie’s hits.

I listen with great pleasure to the 5CD, ‘Lonnie Donegan Collection’ on the Spectrum label which amply demonstrates the breadth of his talents.

 

Creedence Clearwater Revival : Bad Moon Rising

‘Creedence were never the hippest Band in the world – but they were the best!’ (Bruce Springsteen).

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‘I know that buried deep inside me are all these little bits and pieces of Americana. It’s deep in my heart, deep in my soul.’ (John Fogerty)

 

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Gutta cavat lapidem non vi sed saepe cadendo.

A water drop hollows a stone – not by force but by falling often.

Or, if you want to really master a craft you need to put in the hours.

Consider The Beatles in Hamburg forgoing sleep and comfort to play set after set until they were a band that had deep trust in each other and their abilitiy to hold and move an audience.

Consider, today, Creedence Clearwater Revival.

In 1969/1970/1971 there was no doubt who the top singles Band in the World were; how’s this for a sequence of classics:

Proud Mary/Born on the Bayou,

Bad Moon Rising/Lodi,

Green River/Commotion,

Down on the Corner/Fortunate Son,

It Came Out of the Sky/Cottonfields,

Travelin’ Band/Who’ll Stop the Rain?,

Run Through the Jungle/Up Around the Bend,

Lookin’ Out My Back Door/Long As I Can See the Light,

Have You Ever Seen the Rain/Hey Tonight.

Yowza! Yowza! Yowza!

Boy Howdy!

That’s a streak of inspiration and connection with your audience on a par with Chuck Berry or Lennon & McCartney at their peak.

Their omnipresence on the radio and on the charts was the result of years and years of unheralded toil.

Their emergence on the national and world stage only came after a full decade of slogging up and down the Pacific Coast, round the punishing circuit of military bases, small town clubs and dingy dance halls following their formation by Tom Fogerty in 1959 as The Blue Velvets.

Thousand of miles and thousands of hours binding Tom Fogerty, Stu Cook, Doug Clifford and John Fogerty together into a potent Rock ‘n’ Roll force.

Stu Cook and Doug Clifford forging a Zen rhythm section with Tom Fogerty.

Sometime, Somewhere along those endless highways, John Fogerty, the 14 year old kid who joined his big brother’s band transmogrified into a world class singer, songwriter and guitarist with a sound and vision of his own that resonated deeply with the society he lived in and zeroed into the heart of the Zeitgeist.

This was a young man who had been electrified by the visceral power of the 50s Rock ‘n’ Roll Masters and who wouldn’t settle for any music that couldn’t match that power – live up to that challenge.

He worked out a recipe for making sure fire great Rock ‘n’ Roll records and then with the fullest measure of inspiration and perspiration set about matching his idols.

First : You just gotta have a great title.

Think, ‘Heartbreak Hotel’, ‘Sweet Little Sixteen’, ‘Blue Suede Shoes’, ‘Great Balls of Fire!’.

So, he carried a notebook and every time a title popped up in his head that sounded like the title of a classic song, he carefully wrote it down and set his mind to writing the rest of the song.

Titles in John’s Notebook – ‘Proud Mary’, ‘Born on the Bayou’, ‘Up Around the Bend’, ‘Green River’ and, yes, oh Yes – ‘Bad Moon Rising’.

Second : The Song has to connect with the real lives of your audience.

Think, ‘Schooldays’, ‘I Saw Her Standing There’, ‘Dead End Street’.

It should seem so true that once you heard it the first time you could sing it to yourself or a friend (you’d want to share it with a friend) even if the record wasn’t playing in the background.

So, John Fogerty songs are true and resonate whether you’re looking up at the stars in California, Calcutta, Carlisle or Khe Sanh.

Everyone has times when they wonder, for themselves and those around them, Who will stop the Rain?

Everyone has times when they hope, sometimes against hope, that they will be able to hold on and come through as long as they can see at least a glimmer of the light.

Everyone knows one of those Fortunate Sons who is protected by wealth and influence from the grim realities the rest of us have to endure.

Everyone, for humans are a Lunar People hungry for auguries, has at some time looked up into the night sky and said to themselves and to those around them, with dread :

I see a bad moon a-rising … I see trouble on the way … Don’t go ’round tonight
It’s bound to take your life … There’s a bad moon on the rise

 

Third : You just Gotta have a great Guitar lick.

Think, ‘Johnny B Goode’, ‘Hello Mary Lou’, ‘You Really Got Me’, ‘Gloria’.

So, John Fogerty spent hours and hours with his, ‘Black Beauty’ Les Paul custom searching for that Lick, That Lick, the one that would come roaring out of the radio or Jukebox speakers and turn every head, set every toe tapping, get every heart leaping.

And, time after time, time after time, John Fogerty found that magic Lick – the one you can’t argue about, can’t deny.

The Lick that thrills the first time and still thrills the thousandth time.

Nunc, if you get a great title that resonates with the real lives of your audience and you craft a great Guitar Lick and have a Band who will support you through every bar as you sing that Song with irresistible power you are going to make a great Rock ‘n’ Roll Record.

And,if you are John Fogerty with Creedence Clearwater Revival you will make a  Record in, ‘Bad Moon Rising’ that enters the very DNA of Rock ‘n’ Roll.