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.

 

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.

The Five Satins : In The Still Of The Night

 

‘There is nothing to save, now all is lost, but a tiny core of stillness in the heart like the eye of a Violet.’ (D H Lawrence)

‘They Dance by the Light Of The Moon to:

The Penguins, The Moonglows, The Orioles and

The Five Satins …’

(Paul Simon from ‘Rene And Georgette Magritte With Their Dog After The War’)

 

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Ninety-Seven Channels – and nothing on.

Nothing on.

Noise. Chatter. Static.

Noise. Chatter. Static.

A tidal wave of Noise assaulting your senses – all day, every day.

If only you could find a lagoon of peace to shelter in.

A moment in time when you can see things clear.

Clear.

Think straight.

Straight.

Listen for the message hidden in your heart.

The message in your heart.

Round about three in the morning there’s a moment when the whole world seems to shiver and then fall silent and still.

A moment when the beating of your heart is not lost in the background anymore.

A moment when that beat, beat, beat, is fully present and fills your whole being.

A being Singing for the joy of being alive.

Singing for the miracle of being in Love

Alive and in Love in the still of the night.

In The Still Of The Night

.

Didn’t that enchant?

In The Still Of The Night you hold someone tight and promise to never to let them go.

And, it’s a blithe promise of youth you mean to keep.

You want them to hold you again with all their might before the light dissolves the magic of The Still Of The Night.

And, should you part, for all the reasons Lovers part, that moment in The Still Of The Night will always remain in your heart.

Always remain.

You’ll carry it with you in the secret chambers of your heart as the seasons turn and the years and decades accumulate.

And, sometimes, out of the blue, you’ll find that moment white and bright before you and you will be young and present again in The Still Of The Night.

And, depending on the paths you’ve trod in the intervening years – the promises you’ve made and the promises you’ve broken you’ll find your eyes wet with tears of gratitude or tears of regret.

In The Still Of The Night.

The starlit lead vocal is by Fred Parris who also wrote the song.

Fred’s wordless croon as the song’s last twenty seconds play out has an ethereal beauty that always blows the heart open.

Harmony vocals by Ed Martin, Jim Freeman and Nat Mosley.

So, you will see that The Five Satins had only four members when recording their immortal Doo-Wop standard!

Vinny Mazzetta plays the seductive saxophone. Doug Murray holds down the bass (or was it a Cello?) Bobby Mapp was behind the drum kit while Curlee Glover played the piano.

Marty Kugell produced and issued the record on his own  Standard label in 1956.

It was then taken up by Ember Records and became a substantial Pop and  R&B hit.

Sales sky rocketed when it was prominently featured on ‘Oldies’ compilations and on several Movie soundtracks.

In The Still Of The Night, in the original version, has three times lodged in the Billboard Pop  Charts which may be a unique feat.

Some scholars argue that the term Doo-Wop itself emerged from the chanting surrounding Fred’s yearning lead.

I never tire of Doo-Wop because it’s essentially the sound of secular prayer.

Prayers of hope and longing for life to be transformed by the alchemy of love.

Those prayers have ascended in profusion for every hour of every day and every night since time began.

Doo-Wop will never die.

Funnily enough this secular prayer was recorded in the basement of St Bernadette’s Church in New Haven Connecticut in February 1956.

If you visit I’d advise you to light a candle for your own secret intentions and then take a trip down to the basement and see the plaque there commemorating one of Rock ‘n’ Roll’s most precious moments.

And, if you’re anything like me you’ll glance around and if you’re unobserved, you’ll test out the acoustic once more as you channel Fred Parris and sing with all your heart:

… So before the light hold me again with all your might

In The Still Of The night

In The Still Of The Night

In the Still Of The Night.

 

 

 

Roxy Music : Love Is The Drug

It’s almost Saturday Night.

Almost.

Almost.

Just a few more hours here at Bainbridge’s adding up rows and rows and rows of accounts.

A few more hours staring out the window watching the sky darken.

Waiting for The Moon to light up the Dark.

Waiting for The Stars to dazzle my eyes.

This Saturday Night is going to be My Night.

My Night.

Make sure I get dressed to impress.

Fred Perry. Sta Press. Barracuta G9. Chelsea Boots.

Haute Rouge fragrance.

Time to establish the Mood.

Light up a Disque Bleu and contemplate the posters of Francoise Hardy, Monica Vitti and Steve McQueen.

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Leaf through the latest ‘Salut les copains’

Now for some Sounds!

Start out with Miles Davis, ‘Kind Of Blue’.

Now that is Cool, Cool, Cool.

Gonna Dance Tonight.

Dance, Dance, Dance.

Betty Everett, ‘Getting Mighty Crowded’.

Major Lance, ‘The Monkey Time’.

Maxine Brown, ‘Oh No Not My Baby’.

Roy Head, ‘Treat Her Right’.

Jimmy Radcliffe, ‘Long After Tonight Is Over’.

I can feel the Glow.

One last look in the mirror – Perfect!

Fire up the Super Sprint 90.

Saturday Night.

The Town will be throbbing.

Throbbing.

Where are am I headed tonight?

Where will the Faces be?

La Dolce Vita? The Downbeat?

The Oxford? or The Cavendish?

First off, I’m going to ride the Super Sprint right up to the door of Club A ‘Gogo and announce my arrival on the scene!

Here I am! Here I am!

Young, Free and Single.

Time IS on my side.

It ain’t no big thing the toll of the bell.

Look Out Girls!

Oh, Oh, Oh, catch that Buzz.

Catch that Buzz.

Love is the drug I’m thinking of.

Love is the drug and I need to score!

Love is the drug for me.

 

 

Now that is a record that would get anyone well and truly hooked!

Roxy Music In Ecelsis!

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From the very first moment with the footstep and car door opening sound effects you just know you’re about to set off on a thrilling trip.

Jon Gustafson comes in with that heart jolting, adrenaline laced, bass line and you will barely draw breathe again until the fade out – swept along by the instrumental brilliance of the ensemble, the crisp, crystal clear production of Chris Thomas and the knowing seductive vocal Bryan Ferry gives to his superbly sketched narrative.

Gustafson was a veteran of the British Beat scene having been a member of The Big Three who were lions of the Cavern in Liverpool with everybody including The Beatles grooving along to their cover of Richard Barrett’s ‘Some Other Guy’.

He went on to play with The Merseybeats and The Pirates as well as numerous studio gigs.

However, his lasting glory will surely be the three albums he played on with Roxy Music and in particular the fantastic propulsive drive his bass line gives to Love Is The Drug (I’m sure Nile Rodgers of Chic felt it in his boots!).

The ‘secret hero’ of all Roxy Music Records is, of course, Paul Thompson, a Drummer whose complete mastery of tempo gave the Band a rock solid foundation that allowed Roxy’s ‘Exotics’ – Bryan Ferry, guitarist Phil Manzanera, Saxman Andy Mackay and Keyboard wizard Eddie Jobson the freedom to be theatrically inventive.

Phil Manzanera’s highly accomplished guitar playing draws on his love of Latin American rhythms and the angularity of English Art Rock. Add to this his technical command of his instrument and his musical intelligence and you have the ideal guitarist for a Band performing musically and emotionally complex songs.

Eddie Jobson was the boy wonder Keyboard player whose musical felicity gave him the smarts to add shade, colour and dramatic sophistication to the kaleidoscopic gallery of moods conjured up by Bryan Ferry’s lyrics.

Andy Mackay was always a key figure in Roxy Music giving them a depth and breadth of sound marking them out from their contemporaries.

In this song you can feel the red lights, the bated breath and the heat of nocturnal anticipation in his playing.

His saxophone and woodwind contributions were always integral to the overall conception of the unique Roxy Music sonic palette.

In fact, Love Is The Drug began as a Mackay instrumental. It was worked up in Air Studios with each additional player’s contributions making the track more and more irresistible with Chris Thomas at the desk insisting on take after take until it was practically perfect.

Only one further element was needed for a sure fire hit!

Namely, a winning lyric and vocal.

Enter, Bryan Ferry.

Bryan was known to try the patience of his colleagues by obsessively working on his lyrics – drafts after draft after draft being reworked until the seam of pure gold was revealed.

Andy Mackay recalls that he sometimes appeared like a Conjuror keeping the audience breathless until, magically, he pulled the veritable rabbit out of his silk Top Hat!

When he settled himself at the microphone to sing, ‘Love Is The Drug’ for the first time his weary Bandmates were amazed and thrilled.

To a man they knew this would be a massive, unstoppable hit which would take their career to another level.

Bryan tells his story with economy and wit.

It’s a story we’ve all surely been part of in our youth so we can recognise the accuracy of the tale and smile at our own recollections of when we were the key dramatis personae.

Boy meets girl where the beat goes on.

Face to face, Toe to toe.

Hearts pounding as heart to heart they hit the floor.

The stumble round, the hoped for locked embrace.

Catch that Buzz.

One says Go … the other says Yes.

Oh, Oh, Oh, Oh ….

Well, dim the lights and you can guess the rest!

Bryan Ferry’s lyric is a model of economy and wit deftly deploying alliteration, assonance and rhyme to beguile our senses.

Love Is The Drug has remained a fixture at Roxy Music and Bryan Ferry shows from 1975 to this day.

Simply put it’s a classic that will never fail.

I’ll leave you with a scorching live version from  2001.

I guarantee this song will still sound great on the bases of The Moon and Mars in 3001.

Can’t you see.

Oh, Oh, Oh, Oh, Love Is The Drug.

Love Is The Drug.

 

Christmas Alphabet : S for Springsteen – Santa Claus is coming to Town

Sometimes you should just make the introduction and get the hell out of the way as fast as you can.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Boys and Girls I give you Bruce Springsteen with The E Street Band (featuring Clarence Clemons as Pere Noel!) with:

Santa Claus is Coming to Town!

Bruce knows how to throw a party!

Whether you’ve been naughty or nice I hope you make the List.

In memory of a Big, Big Man – Clarence Clemons.

Christmas Alphabet : R for Roy Orbison (Pretty Paper)

London 1963.

Roy Orbison was far from his Texas Home and assailed by a raging fever.

He was in Britain following a successful tour supported by a new Beat Group, The Beatles, who really seemed to be tearing up the place.

They were nice guys.

Every night they stood on the side of the stage to watch Roy – open mouthed as he effortlessly hit operatic notes and held the crowd, frantic when they’d performed, spellbound without moving a muscle.

Though the thermometer showed 102 and rising Roy had a job to do.

His producer and mentor Fred Foster had found a Christmas song from a fellow Texan, Willie Nelson, called, ‘Pretty Paper’ that might just give Roy another big fat hit.

No one could write a better heart tugging song than Willie and damn sure No One, absolutely No One, could sing such a song to rival The Big O!

So, in Pye Studios, the cream of London’s session men under the supervision of Bill Justis and Ivor Raymonde got everybody miked up and the Orchestra set because Roy was fading away before their eyes.

We’re only going to get one shot at this!

The term ‘Unique’ is thrown about far too carelessly when discussing the merits of great singers.

In the case of Roy Orbison no other description will do.

It’s the whispering sound of your subconscious.

It’s the whispering all around you of the West Texas Wind.

It’s the whisper of your thoughts and dreams and memories.

The ones you smile when you recall and the ones that make you wince.

It’s the sound of a bruised and battered heart that scarce knows how it’s beating on.

It’s a plea to The Moon and The Stars when all the earthly powers have turned away.

Turned away.

It’s the unique sound of Roy Orbison.

There’s quite a story behind Willie’s song.

On his regular visits to Fort Worth he had noticed a man selling pencils and paper outside landmark Department Store, Leonard’s.

Now this was a man you wouldn’t easily forget once seen.

For he was severely crippled and moved about by hauling himself along the sidewalk protected by heavy gloves and knee pads made out of old tires.

In all weathers he was there selling his wares.

‘Pretty Paper! Pretty Paper!’ he would call out to attract customers – hoping for a few more coins to drop into his cup.

Walking his farm in search of inspiration Willie remembered this cry and soon putting his own pencil to work a classic Christmas Song was born.

Characteristically Willie uses words sparingly to paint the picture.

The promise, the pleasure and the pathos of the Christmas Season are captured.

The love and the longing and the loss.

My how time does fly.

My how time does fly.

Pretty paper, pretty ribbons of blue
Wrap your presents to your darling from you
Pretty pencils to write I love you
Pretty paper, pretty ribbons of blue

Crowded street, busy feet, hustle by him
Downtown shoppers, Christmas is nigh
There he sits all alone on the sidewalk
Hoping that you won’t pass him by

Should you stop? Better not, much too busy
You’re in a hurry, my how time does fly
In the distance the ringing of laughter
And in the midst of the laughter he cries

Pretty paper, pretty ribbons of blue
Wrap your presents to your darling from you
Pretty pencils to write I love you
Pretty paper, pretty ribbons of blue

Now, I love the original version.

The backing singers and the Orchestra and the deliberate pace all evoke the era perfectly for me (I would have been 8 years old when the record was released).

But. But.

When I play, ‘Pretty Paper’ I always turn to the live version below.

The sheer majesty and magnetism of Roy Orbison’s voice cuts straight to the core.

Roy didn’t know the name of the man the song was written about.

But Frankie Brierton could have had no more tender salute than that so indelibly sung by Roy here.

Maybe we could all take a look around as we hurry on busy feet through the crowded streets.

Maybe we as we accumulate the pretty paper and the ribbons of blue we could stop for a moment and remember Frankie in all his dignity.

Maybe we could find a cup to drop more than a few coins into and spare a word of good cheer to one finding the days hard and the nights long.

Then we could say with a full heart Merry Christmas to all we meet.