Pete Townshend, Willie Mitchell, Robert Parker : Barefootin’

My Uncle Joe was, in the hierarchy of his own mind, first a Kerryman, next a Gaelic Football fanatic, then an Irishman and finally a Farmer.

He was at once; very strong and gentle, full of strong opinions and quietly spoken.

He was not much given to offering advice – least of all to his bookish, non stop talking, citified nephew over from London for the Summer Holidays.

So, on the very rare ocassions when he did offer advice I listened closely.

As we were companionably going to The Creamery one August morning, our conversation proceeding at the steady pace of the donkey pulling the cart we rode, I told Joe I wanted a new pair of shoes, nay Beatle Boots!, for my 9th Birthday.

Joe was not a devotee of the four lads from Liverpool but it turned out to my surprise that he was very interested in the subject of Boots and the necessity, nay the duty, to purchase the very best Boots you could afford (and maybe those that were more expensive than you could truly afford) as a ‘Proper pair of Boots was an investment, an Investment, that would repay you many times over as the years passed by’.

He went further, ‘If you’re not going to wear a proper pair of Boots you might as well go barefoot. Barefoot!’

Accepting his argument a fine strong pair of countryman’s Boots we’re wrapped up before the week was out and once opened I barely took them off for the next year.

Joe died tragically young when he was not yet fifty.

I think of him every time I buy a new pair of Boots ; mentally composing a letter :

’Joe, I spent the money I got for my college scholarship on a pair of Tricker’s Boots – a pure investment!’

’Joe, you’ll never believe it! I found a pair of Redwing Boots  (the ones from Minnesota) in a  charity shop for £15!’

‘Joe, there’s twenty guys in this office and I’m the only one who had invested in a decent pair of Boots – sure they might as well be barefoot!’

‘Joe, if I get that pay rise I’m going to invest in a pair of New and Lingwood Chukka Boots (actually I’ve bought them already – bound to get that rise!)

Of course, in the right circumstances, being barefoot is just the thing.

If you ask people to supply an image of being carefree I’ll guarantee you a healthy percentage will paint a picture of walking barefoot along a sun kissed sandy beach.

Sure works for me.

I’m also reminded of a lovely (though possibly apocryphal) about two Irish athletes lining up at the start of the 1960 Rome Olympics Marathon.

Looking around at the assembled greats of the long distance running world they were startled to see a rail thin African runner who seemingly had neglected to bring his running shoes with him.

They agreed that whoever else they had to worry about they would surely have no trouble in outpacing this competitor!

As it turned out the mystery runner was none other than Abebe Bikele from Ethiopia who would run barefoot every step of the 26 miles through the glorious rubble of Rome before cruising to the Gold Medal!

Sometimes barefoot is just the thing.

Come on … Everybody get on your feet … you make me nervous when you in your seat … take off your shoes!

Barefootin’ … Barefootin’ …. Barefootin’

Doin’ a dance that cant be beat!

Barefootin’!

No word of a lie – can’t be beat, can’t be beat!

Robert Parker from 1966 with yet another classic from New Orleans which became a huge R&B and Pop Chart Hit.

Brilliantly arranged by the great Wardell Quezergue, ‘Barefootin” showcases the superb rhythmic sense of Crescent City musicians.

Robert’s vocal is graced by ambrosial guitar and a horn section that demands you dance and keep dancing as long as your feet hold out!

Take off your shoes and Dance Now!

Take off your Shoes!

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Robert Parker was already a veteran of the New Orleans music scene in 1966 when his name briefly hit the headlines.

Growing up with Huey Smith and Sugar Boy Crawford he haunted the Caldonia Inn to watch the legendary Professor Longhair strut his stuff,

By 1949 Robert was playing with The Shuffling Hungarians (got to get that T Shirt!) and recording Mardi Gras in New Orleans with the great man.

He moved on to lead his own band at The Tijuana where he backed up Bobby Marchan, Guitar Slim and Little Richard.

Taking his band, The Royals, on the road he laid down the groove for R&B stars like Roy Brown, Big Joe Turner and Solomon Burke – what I wouldn’t give to time travel back to those days to catch them burning the house down in a club in Florida or Texas!

Robert’s recording highlights before ‘Barefootin;’ include appearing in 1959 on the wonderful, ‘Don’t You Know Yockomo’ with Huey Smith  and on Irma Thomas’ characteristically smouldering, ‘Don’t Mess with My Man’.

The same year he also made his solo record debut with, ‘All Night Long’.

All this time Robert was primarily a Sax Man and Bandleader who could handle a vocal when required.

Though Robert was well known around New Orleans and on the southern touring circuit I doubt anyone was expecting him to write and record an R&B classic that would sell a million copies and have a continuing afterlife in cover versions both in America and the UK.

Strange things happening everyday!

One day Robert fetched up at Tuskegee University in Alabama and he noted that as he began to play the college girls all took off their shoes in front of the bandstand.

This incident was filed away and when about to start a show in Miami he heard the Comic/MC announce – everybody get on your feet; you make me nervous when you’re in your seat’ the creative tumblers turned and clicked and Voila! a song was born.

Now when Robert took the song to Wardell at NOLA Records it was swiftly recorded … but.. but .. the other powers at NOLA didn’t hear a Hit so it languished in the tape vaults for a year until sharp earned local DJ Hank Sample heard it and persuaded NOLA to issue some copies to his Record Store.

They promptly sold like hot cakes and Robert had a great big fat Hit on his hands!

The crowd at New York’s Apollo Theatre went wild when Robert kicked off his shoes and kickstarted the band into, Barefootin’’.

Robert never had another Smash but he remained a much loved figure in The Crescent City and he was properly inducted into the Lousiana Music Hall of Fame in 2007.

Regular readers will know that I would take some persuading that any other city can truly rival New Orleans for the accolade of being dubbed the premier Music City.

However, one of the few cities that might be considered a genuine rival is Nashville.

And, from there comes the next version of, ‘Barefootin’’ featured today courtesy of some of the finest players ever to record there – Barefoot Jerry.

Key members Wayne Moss and Charlie McCoy had been part of an A Team that gathered around Bob Dylan when he brought his kaleidoscopic imagination to Nashville in yet another of his artistic rebirths.

Take off your Shoes!

We got ourselves a Hootenany and a Hoedown!

 

 

Next we move downriver to Memphis which cedes to no City in musical eminence.

So many great singers, songwriters, musicians and producers!

And, right at the very top of that tree undoubtedly one Willie Mitchell who is one of the all time great exponents of finding the secret alchemy for making classic records.

Find a great band of musicians and find the songs and the arrangements and groove!

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It worked countless times with Al Green and Ann Peebles in particular.

Less well known are the addictive sides Willie made under his own name.

Once the band locks into the groove here even Zombies would be getting Barefoot with some despatch!

Take off your shoes and throw them away!

 

I was born far, far away from the fabled Music CIties above yet it turns out that London, the home of some of the most knowledgeable and fanatical music devotes on the entire globe, was just the place to imbibe the sounds of all those great American conurbations.

Whatever kind of music you groove to someone in London knows all about it in exhaustive detail.

Growing up in London, one Pete Townhend fed the creative muse that would make him one of the most gifted and celebrated songwriters of his age through deep immersion in the traditions of R&B, Rock ‘n’ Roll and Soul Music.

And, that love of the drive of those 40s and 50s sounds fed into the astounding attack of his records and live shows.

Wonderful to see him celebrating his musical heritage in the  joyous performance below.

Surely Pete has been Barefootin’ ever since he was Two!

Anyone sitting in their seat as this one plays must have a serious back problem!

Doesn’t he cut a mean rug!

I like to Mambo.

I like to Samba.

Never go too long without Twisting the Night Away.

Always ready for The Locomotion.

I’m partial to a Polka and never weary of The Waltz.

But, today ain’t no other Dance will do.

Everybody get on your feet!

Let’s do a Dance that can’t be beat!

Come on!

We Barefootin ‘

Barefootin’

Barefootin’!

 

Note :

This Post written wearing Redwing Boots.

Playback dancing strictly Barefoot!

Rolling Stones, Bob and Earl : The Harlem Shuffle

There is Presence in Place Names.

There is Romance in Place Names.

There is Poetry in Place Names.

Ulan Bator. Medicine Hat. Yekaterinburg.

Valparaiso. Terra Del Fuego. Finisterre.

Spoon River. Brigadoon. Elsinore.

Kathmandu. Coeur D’Alene. Cahirciveen.

Firenze. Maratea. Vigata.

New York City. New York City. New York City.

Manhattan. Queens. The Bronx. Staten Island. Brooklyn.

Harlem. Harlem. Harlem.

Black and white image of a street scene in Harlem in the 1930s.

Now for profound reasons of History Harlem has felt compelled to Shout!

Now for profound reasons of History Harlem has felt compelled to Scream!

But in all ages and conditions Harlem has lived and breathed through Song.

Harlem Sings! Harlem Sings! Harlem Sings!

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Harlem sings in the photographs of Aaron Siskind.

Harlem sings in the poetry of Langston Hughes, Claude McKay and Georgia Douglas Johnson.

Harlem sings in the melodies captured by a Harlem Airshaft.

Harlem sings in the writing of James Baldwin, Countee Cullen and W.E.B. DuBois.

Harlem sings in the polemics of Hubert Harrison and Marcus Garvey.

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Harlem sings at Olympic Field as the Lincoln Giants win again.

Harlem sings in the words and melodies of George and Ira Gershwin.

Harlem sings in the escapades of Harry Houdini.

Harlem sings in the crazed cavorting of Groucho, Chico and Harpo.

Harlem sings through Count Basie and Coleman Hawkins.

Harlem sings in the Knockout majesty of Joe Louis.

Harlem sings in the fleet feet of Bill ‘Bojangles’ Robinson.

Harlem sings through the inescapable Joy flowing from Fats Waller.

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Harlem sings through Frankie Lymon and Garland Jeffreys.

Harlem sings through Ralph Ellison and Johnny Hartman.

Harlem sings as another winner pings off the racket of Althea Gibson.

Harlem sings in the firm Gavel of Thurgood Marshall.

Harlem sings at Club Harlem.

Harlem sings at The Alhambra Ballroom.

Harlem sings at Havana San Juan.

Harlem sings at The Lennox Lounge.

Harlem sings at Minton’s Playhouse.

Harlem sings at Monroe’s Uptown House.

Harlem sings at Small’s Paradise and The Sugar Cane Club.

Harlem sings at The Park Palace and The Park Plaza.

Harlem sings and sings and everybody, everybody, wants to sing, sing, sing at The Apollo Theatre.

You move it to the left – you go for yourself.

You move it to the right – if it takes all night.

Take it kinda slow  with a whole lot of Soul

Do The Harlem Shuffle.

Do The Harlem Shuffle.

The Harlem Shuffle.

 

Harlem sings through through the raise the dead glory of Bob Relf and Earl Nelson’s, ‘Harlem Shuffle’ from 1963.

Don’t move it too fast – just make it last.

How low can you go?

Yup, even Lazarus himself, when he was laying down, would have got up off the bed and on to the floor once that brass fanfare kicked in!

Barry White (yes .. that Barry White) played Piano and did the arrangement (with Gene Page?) while Fred Smith produced.

Bob and Earl sing their hearts out through every line.

Now come on – don’t fall down on me now.

Just move it right here to The Harlem Shuffle.

The Harlem Shuffle.

Ride. Ride. Ride.

And that’s what Bob and Earl do.

They ride, ride, ride, slide and swoop so that we ain’t got no choice but to shake a tail feather for all we’re worth.

The combination of the urgent vocals and the insistent rhythms intoxicatingly surrounds you ’til you feel you can’t stand it no more.

That last for about a nanosecond before you want to be out on the floor again – head spinningly lost for another lifetime encapsulated in 162 seconds.

Yeah, yeah, yeah to the Harlem Shuffle.

Whoa, Whoa, Whoa.

Do The Harlem Shuffle.

Do The Harlem Shuffle.

Take All Night.

Make it last.

Meanwhile ….

Far across the Atlantic Ocean in England in an unremarkable place named Dartford two young men found that they shared a passion for The Blues, Rhythm & Blues and Rock ‘n’ Roll.

Mick Jagger and Keith Richard were and are true aficionados of Black Music.

Maybe they heard Harlem Shuffle on the radio or through hipper than hip Guy Stevens DJ-ing at London’s New Scene Club.

It was Stevens running the UK arm of Sue Records who first issued the record in Britain in 1965.

Keith, in particular, was taken by the horn heavy blast of Harlem Shuffle and he knew that Mick could really shake a tail feather to this one on stage.

He also knew that he had in Charlie Watts the coolest drummer in the whole wide world at his back so the song would hit the groove and stay hit throughout allowing him to dig deep.

Being the wily old bird he is Keith kept putting Harlem Shuffle on tapes of songs he gave to Mick until one fine day Mick just sang along as Keith and Ronnie Wood ran the song down in a rehearsal studio.

And, when they hit the stage – all brass and backing singers blazing there can be no resistance.

You scratch just like a monkey.

Yeah you do real cool.

Real Cool.

Real Cool.

Do The Harlem Shuffle.

The Harlem Shuffle.

Tail Feather well and truly shaken!

Notes :

Bobby Relf died in November 2007.

Hailing from Los Angeles (born 1937) he was in The Upfronts with Barry White.

Harlem Shuffle owes a lot to a West Coast tune, ‘Slausson Shuffletime’ by Round Robin.

Bobby kept in touch with Barry White and provided lucrative material for his fabulously successful Love Unlimited.

Earl Nelson died in July 2008.

He had an earlier brush with fame when he sang lead on The Hollywood Flames’ hit, ‘Buzz, Buzz, Buzz’.

Jukebox Jive with Garland Jeffreys : Getting The Story Through

 

I’m delighted today to launch a new Feature, ‘Jukebox Jive with …’.

The aim is to provide an insight into the social and musical roots of artists close to the heart of The Jukebox.

It is a special pleasure that we begin with Garland Jeffreys for I have been an avid fan of his work for over 40 years!

Garland generously spared an hour of his time for a telephone interview with me to discuss his influences, his mentors and contemporaries and the records he most cherishes from his own catalogue.

Delightfully he also frequently broke into song down the line from New York to illustrate his answers.

 

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Garland is a singer, songwriter and performer of immense talent.

Someone who was best friends with Lou Reed and regularly called up on stage by Bruce Springsteen.

People, ‘In the Know’ know what a great artist Garland is!

He has written dozens of haunting songs which provide searching insights into what it is to live an engaged modern life.

Drawing on the traditions of Jazz, Blues, Rhythm and Blues, Doo-Wop, Reggae and Soul his work shines a forensic light onto the issues of The Working Life, Race and Class, Love and Sex in post World War 2 America as refelected in the Nation’s premier City – New York.

Garland was born in June 1943 and grew up in Brooklyn’s Sheepshead Bay. His heritage was a mixture of Black, White and Puerto Rican – not forgetting a trace of Cherokee!

It’s undoubtedly the case that such a complex heritage gave Garland an outsider status – too black to be white, too white to be black.

While this provided a series of challenging scenarios in his youth it had the artistic advantage of making him a sharp and subtle observer of the world around him.

His parents were hard working people who instilled in him a love of music and pride in doing a job well.

Perhaps it’s better at this point to allow Garland to tell you himself; through his wonderfully warm and affectionate memoir song, ‘14 Steps To Harlem’ what it was like growing up in the 50s and 60s in such a household.

 

 

IJ – Who was the Artist who called your own voice (as Bob Dylan’s was called by Woody Guthrie)?

GJ :

Well, I grew up in a house filled with music.

My Mother loved Duke Ellington, Dinah Washington and Frank Sinatra.

I loved those and discovered for myself someone as great as Nina Simone who I used to see perform at The Village Gate.

All this stood me in very good stead later when I shared a stage with Jazz Giants like Sonny Rollins and Carmen McRae – you should have heard our duet on, ‘Teach Me Tonight’ (Garland croons … should the teacher stand so near, my love)

There’s a depth in Jazz I’m mining to this day.

I always could sing so naturally I sang along to the radio – those fabulous R&B, Doo-Wop and Rock ‘n’ Roll songs saturated the New York air.

If I have to pick one I’ll go for Frankie Lymon – he was a hell of a singer and he was my size!

Frankie could really sing and not just the uptemp hits everyone remembers but also heart rending ballads like, ‘Share’.

Frankie sang songs filled with energy and sweetness and you knew he was talking about the real life lived out on the New York Streets.

A record I just couldn’t stop playing?,,,

Well I’d have to say Frankie Lymon (don’t forget The Teenagers) with, ‘I’m Not a Juvenile Delinquent’.

 

 

IJ – Was there a Radio Station/Radio Show that was important in introducing you to the Music you love?

GJ :

We all listened to WINS and especially to Alan Freed’s Moondog Show.

I loved the Sports coverage on WINS too.

I was a true Brooklyn Dodgers fan – proud to say I was there in 1947 when Jackie Robinson played his first Major League game at Ebbets Field!

Later on I used to go to see broadcasting legend Bob Fass at the WBAI Studios

I went there a few times with the great Bass Player, Richard Davis, who played on my own records as well as being the instrumental star of Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks.

Richard was a great musician but a humble man.

He was something of a mentor for me as was Paul Griffin (who played Piano on Dylan’s Like A Rolling Stone among many other classic recordings).

Of course, I was close with Lou Reed from our days at Syracuse University – boy were we the odd couple!

IJ : What was the first record made by one of your contemporaries that made you think – Wow they’ve really got it!

GJ :

Oh, Yeh … Bob Dylan’s ‘Don’t Think Twice It’s Alright’.

I’m a couple of years younger than Bob Dylan.

I used to go to and play at New York Folk Clubs like The Gaslight and Gerde’s.

I saw him then. He has always been a fascinating character.

Managing to be a fantastic self promoter without obviously being one.

He had a unique style and his songs just made sense of the times we were living in.

He wasn’t afraid to be challenging politically and in personal relationships.

 

 

IJ : Which of your own Records was the first to turn out exactly how you wanted it to?

GJ :

I’d have to say that would be, ‘Ghost Writer’ from 1977.

That was an inspired record – the whole album where everything came together. The songs, my singing and the musicians I played with all playing at a peak.

Songs like, ‘Cool Down Boy’, ‘Why – O’ and, ‘Spanish Town’ said something then and they still do.

Dr John’s on there and David Spinoza.

Hugh McCracken who played Guitar and Harmonica deserves a lot of credit.

Sadly he died 5 years ago now – that’s the way when you’ve been in the music world as long as I have.

Ghost Writer as an individual song tells my story.

A New York City Son trying to make my way while having fun.

Someone who knows about tradition in Literature – Shakespeare, Spencer and Sydney and who knows that there’s a poetry in the streets that demands to be expressed.

I agree with you that Ghost Writer is a, ‘Blue Hour’ song – a vision that comes from the ghosts whispering in that hour that’s the last of the night or the first of the morning.

I also love that Dub Reggae feel we got down.

 

 

IJ – What other albums make up your top 3?

GJ :

‘Escape Artist’ from 1981 and, ‘The King of In Between’ from 2011.

As to individual songs I would have to go for, ‘Wild in the Streets’ which was a breakthrough song for me and something of a New York City Anthem.

It’s a Song every audience expects me to play and I make sure not to disappoint them.

I still love it – I make sure to play it straight just like I recorded it.

From more recent times I’m proud of  ‘Coney Island Winter’ which says a lot about modern America and stands up for people who need to be stood up for.

Garland started that menacing whispered intro…

This is a classic.

A Song alive, vibrating, with the energy of the Streets.

An energy that can be exhilarating  but which can also be threatening and at times even fatal.

It’s a song that has the beat, beat, beat of the summer sun and of hot young blood.

A song to be sung on the stoops and the fire escapes and on the baking roofs.

 

Garland was nearly 70 when he made one of his very best albums, ‘The King of In Between’.

What’s almost miraculous about this record is that it has the energy and rage of youth combined with the craft and wisdom of maturity.

‘Coney Island WInter’ has the unstoppable power of a Locomotive yet has a profound tenderness towards those left behind by a cruel and heedless system.

It’s a story that happens every day that only a rare storyteller could make come so thrilling alive.

 

IJ – What was your greatest ever Live Show?

GJ :

A show that really stands out for me was one from The Ritz in NYC with The Rumour backing me up.

Those English guys can really play! (the partnership is brilliantly captured on the Rock ‘n ‘Roll Adult CD)

IJ – What Song by another Artist do you wish you had written?

GJ :

For it’s simplicity, its power and its endless playability I would have to say, ‘Gloria’ by Van Morrison in his days with Them.

A Million Garage Bands can’t be wrong!

IJ – Who’s an under rated Artist we ought to look out for?

GJ :

Garland Jeffreys ! (Seconded! The Immortal Jukebox)

IJ – Nominate a Song – one of your own or by someone else to take up the A100 slot on The Immortal Jukebox.

GJ :

Garland Jeffreys – ‘Ghost Writer’.

IJ – Anything you’d like to add?

GJ :

Sure – I’d like to say that I’m forever grateful to all my fans and supoorters. I’ve spent my life trying to make the very best music I can and that’s what I’m always going to do.

Oh ..and if you’re starting out as a musician I’d advise you to protect your copyrights!

Start  your own record company. Of course the main thing you’ve got to do is love the music, the writing and the performing.

Wise words. Wise words.

New York has had many great chroniclers.

For my money Garland deserves his place among them.

His songs have an urban strength and urgency tempered by empathy for the outsiders and also-rans so often unblinkingly passed by.

Songs can be so many things.

For me Garland’s songs have been lifeboats when the tempest raged, lamps to light the way to a safer shore and ladders to climb up to the Stars.

What moves me most is the sense that I am witnessing a unique voice and vision telling me hard won truths.

Jackie Robinson said that the most luxurious possession, the richest treasure anyone can have is their dignity.

Garland has assuredly joined Jackie in that All Star Dugout.

Today, June 29, is Garland’s Birthday.

Happy Birthday Garland – may your Songs always be sung.

 

Notes :

Many thanks to Claire Jeffreys for setting up the Interview.

Thanks too to Mick Tarrant for the introduction.

A Garland Jeffrey’s Playlist :

In addition to the tracks above I regularly play

‘I May Not Be Your Kind’

‘One-Eyed Jack’

‘Matador’

‘Jump Jump’

‘Miami Beach’

‘Don’t Call Me Buckwheat’

‘Hail Hail Rock ‘n’ Roll’

‘I Was Afraid of Malcolm’

”Til John Lee Hooker Calls Me’

‘Roller Coaster Town’

That would make a hell of a mix CD!

 

Willy Deville : Rebirth in New Orleans – Beating Like a Tom Tom

If you can’t find your way follow The River.

The River.

The Mississippi River.

More than two thousand miles all the way.

Well it winds through Bemidji, St Cloud and Anoka.

St Paul, Redwing and Pepin.

On through Minneiska, La Crosse and Potosi.

Lansing, Prarie Du Chien and Galena (hats off to U S Grant)

Sabula, Moline and Oquawka.

Right by Keokuk, Kaskaskia and Hannibal (hats off to Sam Clemens)

Thebes, Cairo and Osceola.

Memphis, Greenville and Helena (hats off to Levon)

Vicksburg, Natchez and Baton Rouge.

That’s how you find your way to the Crescent City.

As it flows The River is always picking up freight.

Flotsam and Jetsom.

Ramblers, Rebels and Gamblers.

No account Losers and Aces up the sleeve sure fire Winners.

As it flows it gathers up and gathers in tall tales and stories, myths and legends, bawdy jokes, rhymes and half rhymes, drunken vows and whispered poems.

As  it flows it gathers up and gathers in melodies and rhythms and lyrics and binds them into Songs.

In a small studio in the Crescent City musicians meet and greet each other.

No ones a stranger.

They all been breathing the same air for years and years.

They know who’s good and just how good they are.

Everyone knows Fats and Dave and ‘Fess.

Mac and Earl and Plas.

Alan and Cyril and Zigaboo

The Studio don’t give them a whole lot of time but they don’t need it.

Count off … let’s roll!

We respect a real song.

More we revere them.

Let the years decide which ones get remembered.

Somewhere out there – maybe thousands of miles Up River someone will respect and revere these songs like we do.

The music gets caught on tape and they press up the vinyl.

The guys on the radio play it when they alloŵed.

In the Roadhouses and Honky Tonks the button is pressed on The Jukebox and the song blooms in the night air.

We got another one to cut now.

A true message always gets through.

Decades later a Singer sweats through another night with the monkey on his back.

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The Dreams take him back to sweet days of youth but they don’t linger there.

No, there’s jeering Demons in the hours before the Dawn and they don’t always fade away in the light.

Always. Always The Songs.

He’s made a lot of mistakes in his life.

A lot.

But, he’s always respected and revered the true songs.

The ones with heart and soul.

The ones that keep turning up in your dreams.

The ones heard on the radio and played on the Jukebox when he was starting out.

The ones you know it ain’t so easy to sing unless you can really sing.

Songs that play in your head sometimes at 33rpm, sometimes at 45, sometimes at 78- depending on what and how much medicine has been taken.

In the roaring traffics boom.

In the silence of a lonely room.

Beating. Beating. Beating.

Big blue diamonds instead of a band of gold.

Oh, I’ve been a fool my dear – a fool by heart.

Beating. Beating. Beating.

I’m loaded out of my mind.

Loaded out of my mind.

Beating. Beating. Beating.

I’ve played the game of love and lost.

Lost.

All through the night all I do is weep.

Tossing and Turning.

Tossing and Turning.

You on my mind.

You hold me and won’t let go.

Hold me and won’t let go.

The beating of my heart.

Beating. Beating. Beating.

Beating like a Tom Tom.

Beating like a Tom Tom.

Now, I know, I know, I’m so defiled in this world I’ve made.

Maybe my own Mother and Father would abandon me.

Maybe they’d be right.

Yet, maybe there’s still a power that could gather me up.

A power that would gather me up.

But, I gonna have to move to find it.

Kind of a pilgrimage.

The River – I’ll follow The River all the way.

All the way.

Got to find my way Down River.

Down River where the Songs come from.

All the way Down to the Crescent City.

Find me those guys who can really play.

They all know each other.

I need the place and their time.

The time and the place.

I need to believe again.

To believe.

Theyll know straight away if I can really Sing.

Gonna ask ‘em to play, ‘Beating Like A Tom Tom’

My heart been beating to that for a long time.

A long time.

Let’s see what kind of Mojo I can show them.

Count it off…

Freddie … make that guitar real pretty ….

‘ … Tossin’ and I’m turnin’ all in my sleep ….’

 

All Right!

Now do you believe?

Got some storefront gospel in there too by God.

I think we did right by old Ernie there guys!

Now Ernie K Doe is one thing but Little Willie John is sure another.

Ain’t a singer alive who heard Willie who didn’t get The Fever.

Willie lived inside the song.

Held it up to the light so it glowed in your mind.

Lodged deeper than a bullet in your heart.

Remember, ‘Big Blue Diamond’?

‘Blue diamonds, big blue diamonds on her finger
Instead of a little band of gold
Big diamonds, big blue diamonds tell the story
Of the love that no one man could hold’.

You got to feel that ache.

The ache for the love behind that band of gold.

The ache.

Count it off ….

 

Yeh … that’ll do it.

Lonesome in the moonlight.

Lonesome in the moonlight.

We all been there.

Looking up with a broken heart.

I was trying to sing it for Willie John in prison looking up at the moon.

Hey Mac what about that one of Alan’s about being a fool by heart?

Ah … Hello My Lover – that’s it.

‘I’ve been a fool, my dear, a fool by heart
But I’m done up in my mind

Oh … I’m gonna try my best to do what is right
I’m gonna be with you, yes I will, both day and night …’

Let’s see if we can get a second line feel here  – raise everybody up.

Gonna dance my way through this one Mac.

When this one comes on everybody gonna dance.

Count it off …

 

Ain’t no hiding why I come down here.

Don’t need to tell you guys what that Junk will do to you.

If I ain’t got as right to sing that Junker Blues – who has?

Here’s one for you Champion Jack!

We all craving for something to make the dawn easier to face.

No messing ..gonna sing this one straight … tell the story.

It’s all about the tempo.

Count it off …

‘Some people call me a Junker ….’

 

Well, ain’t that the best damn feeling!

Got to take these songs out on the road guys.

Take it to the people and show them a new side of me.

Get that Tom Tom Beating.

Get that Tom Tom Beating.

‘ … Tossin’ and I’m turnin’ all in my sleep ….’

 

 

Notes :

Willy Deville in search of musical and spiritual nourishment and respite from being, ‘Willy Deville’ in New York moved to New Orleans in 1989.

Hooking up with Carlo Ditta who owned Orleans Records they conceived the idea of a, ‘Little Record’ that would celebrate Crescent City classics whether they were hits outside New Orleans or not.

A stellar Band was assembled and the resulting record, ‘Victory Mixture’ shows a great singer mining depth after depth from these songs.

The success of the enterprise led to live shows captured on, ‘Big Easy Fantasy’.

Willy Deville could really sing and singing these songs brought out the very best in him.

Listening to him here it’s hard to imagine anyone ever singing these songs better.

P.S. Special thanks to Harvey G Cohen for reminding me of Willy’s New Orleans recordings.

I highly recommend Harvey’s book on Duke Ellington.

He can be found on Twitter @CultrHack.

P.P.S.

bienvenido a la máquina de discos a todos mis lectores en México

 

 

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.

Smiley Lewis, Dave Edmunds & The Strypes : I Hear You Knocking

A Commander of an intergalactic Starship looking at the map of our Solar System would probable observe that there was one major Planet – Jupiter – accompanied by 7 minor ones.

Jupiter is immense.

The Earth would fit into Jupiter some three hundred times.

And, while we delight in a single Moon to light our nights Jupiter holds over 60 Moons in thrall.

Now some of the Moons of Jupiter, though small in comparison to their parent Planet, are fascinating  worlds in their own right.

Galileo discovered the four major Moons of Jupiter in 1610 and ever since we have yearned to know more about Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto.

The satellites of a Planet as important as Jupiter merit close attention and analysis.

As in Astronomy so in Musicology!

In New Orleans in the 1950s there was one giant presence dominating the musical universe – Antoine Fats Domino!

Fats was universally loved.

While he was the Pharoah of his Hometown scene he was also musical royalty from Alaska to Albuquerque from Lima to Liverpool.

In his 1950s heyday he sold records not just in the millions but in the tens of millions.

While Fats’ sound conquered the known world back home in New Orleans a series of lesser lights, satellite talents, made their own distinctive and impressive contributions to the history of Rock ‘n’ Roll.

Preeminent, to my mind, amongst these Moons to Fats’ Jupiter, was Overton Amos Lemons known to the wide world as Smiley Lewis.

Smiley, who got his monicker due to two missing front teeth, was born near Lake Charles Louisina in 1913.

As a teenager he hopped a freight train and made his way to the Crescent City where he knew all the action was for someone ambitious to make a career in Music.

Smiley knew he could really play the guitar and he just knew that put before a microphone he had  a voice that could seduce, serenade and stir an audience until they screamed for more!

Serving an apprenticeship with Tuts Washington he honed his performing skills in the clubs of the French Quarter.

With Tuts he played in the House Band at the Boogie Woogie Club for WW2 troops stationed at Fort Polk.

When the War ended Smiley, Tuts and drummer Herman Seals formed a trio that went down a storm in New Orleans.

Starting out with Deluxe records Smiley found his recording stride when he hooked up in 1950 with the multi talented Kingpin of New Orleans music – Dave Bartholomew at Imperial Records.

From then on throughout the decade Smiley Smiley produced a series of influential, superbly sung and played Rhythm and Blues and Rock ‘n Roll records.

While he never sold more than 100,00 copies on any any of these fine records he was listened to closely by Fats himself as well as Elvis Presley and the sharp eared Rock ‘n’ Roll fanatics in Britain like Paul McCartney and Dave Edmunds.

Smiley made a lot of records everyone should know.

At a minimum everyone should know his, ‘Tee-Nah-Nah’, ‘Bells Are Ringing’, ‘One Night (Of Sin)’ and ‘Shame, Shame, Shame’.

But, he made only one record that Everyone Knows.

From 1955 The Immortal, ‘I Hear You Knocking’.

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The terrific triplet piano comes courtesy of another Fats Domino satellite – Huey Smith.

Dave Bartholomew claimed the writing credit and supplied production smarts and the studio band.

Get ready to sing a long … ‘You went away and left me long time ago ..’

The one and only Smiley Lewis!

 

 

Confession – I’ve been known to pump fistfuls of coins into a Jukebox to ensure this plays 10 times in a row so everybody, everybody, knows how great Smiley Lewis was!

I love the stately tempo here and the supreme relaxed authority of Smiley’s vocal which seems to draw us after him like tugboats in the wake of a mighty steamer.

The Rhythm Section and the Horns mesh perfectly with Huey’s stellar piano and provide the perfect platform for Smiley to glide over.

This record sounded glorious in 1955 and it will always do so.

Fifteen years after Smiley recorded it another true Rocker, Dave Edmunds, was casting about for a classic from the 50s that he could turbo charge with his blistering guitar and scintillating production skills.

His first thought was Wilbert Harrison’s ‘Let’s Work Together but he found himself beaten to the shellac by Canned Heat.

Then a bell rang – surely, ‘I Hear You Knocking’ had the same rhythm and making guitar the featured instrument instead of piano might make for an incendiary sound!

Once the idea hit home it was ‘just’ a matter of Dave putting in the hours playing all the instruments, piping his vocal down a telephone line and compressing the sound at his home from home Welsh studio – Rockfield –  and Voila you have an unstoppable hit.

Let’s Do It!

 

Its very common for musicians to cover the classic works of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Forefathers like Smiley Lewis but the electric soul thrilling wonder of those records is very rarely captured decades later.

Dave Edmunds take on ‘I Hear You Knocking’ is the exception that proves the rule.

Having made such a record with evident love and devotion Dave had every right to namecheck Fats Domino, Huey Smith, Chuck Berry and Smiley Lewis and consider himself part of their lineage.

Don’t just take my word for it.

John Lennon was a Rocker to the tips of his Bootheels.

When he heard  Dave Edmunds version he said, ‘I always liked simple Rock. There’s a great one in England now, ‘I Hear You Knocking’.

John Knew.

And, Praise Be! such a great song still finds a ready audience in musicians who have had that epiphany experience of truly encountering the treasures laid down by the 50s Pioneers.

I’m closing out with Jukebox favourites, The Strypes, who seem to have a direct line to the spirit of those Pioneers.

I hear you knocking … I hear you knocking ….

 

 

Notes :

There are numerous compilations of Smiley Lewis’ hits.

As usual the best set for deep divers like myself is provided by Bear Family. Their superb, 4CD ‘Shame, Shame, Shame’ is pure treasure.

Jeff Hannusch is a deeply knowledgeable writer on Smiley and the New Orleans scene. His book, ‘I Hear You Knocking’ is highly recommended.

As is John Broven’s ‘Rhythm & Blues In New Orleans’.

Ry Cooder & The Drifters (with stellar supporting cast) : Mexican Divorce

In Dave Alvin’s wonderful song, ‘Border Radio’ (sure to feature here next year) there are some lines which have always intrigued me:

‘This song comes from 1962 dedicated to a man who’s gone
50,000 watts out of Mexico
This is the Border Radio
This is the Border Radio’

What was that song from 1962?

What was the old song they used to know?

A song able to summon the life that was.

The life that was lost.

The life that haunts the life lived now.

It whispers of broken promises up and down the Rio Grande.

One day married. Next day free.

Except you’re never really free.

How could you be?

An old adobe house where you leave the past behind.

Except (and everyone knows this in their heart of hearts) you can never truly leave the past behind.

The past shadows your every step.

Another set of footprints in the sand.

The song running through your head night after night from 1962?

Of course, The Drifters with ‘Mexican Divorce’

They say it takes a village to raise a child – to cherish, to nurture well being and growth.

Well, it took a creative village – a constellation of craft and talent to produce the hypnotic aching majesty of, ‘Mexican Divorce’.

Let’s begin with the songwriting team.

The Composer was Burt Bacharach – and for Mr Bacharach I think we can all agree that only the term Composer will do.

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What Bacharach brought to the popular song was immense slegance and sophistication in the conception and construction of melodies, instrumental colour and arrangements.

A Bacharach song has a jewelled Faberge radiance that seduces and dazzles the listener.

A spell is cast, especially when sung by a singer of taste and discretion, that lingers on and on in the imagination.

Bacharach’s genius was to cast and recast that spell adapted to the particular talents of the artist he was working with.

Of course, this wizardry would attain its apogee in the breathtaking series of sides he cut with Dionne Warwick.

For, ‘Mexican Divorce’ Burt’s conjured a melody that takes you gently by the hand as it unfolds its tale of longing, loss and painful regret.

The lyricist partner for Burt here was Bob Hilliard a music industry veteran who had already had notable successes on Broadway, in Hollywood, and on the Pop Charts.

We all know Bob Hilliard songs – think; ‘In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning’, ‘Our Day Will Come’ and, ‘Tower of Strength’ just for starters.

With, ‘Mexican Divorce’ there’s a lovely flow and economy of words which tells a heartbreaking tale that all of us can recognise the truth of.

We know that finding love can take so long. So long.

Alas, we also know that though walking away from love must be wrong and a Sin we do it over and over again.

Millions of footprints in the sand headed for the Broken Promise Land.

There’s no house so dark as one where the light has been turned off by a lover who doesn’t want to live there anymore.

And, sometimes, all you can do, though you know it’s fruitless, is to beg, beg in between tears:

‘..My love I beg – please, oh, please, don’t go!’

Carrying off the lead vocal duties with deep died melancholia was the tragic figure of Rudy Lewis (that’s Rudy on the right below)

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Rudy had the gift of bringing life and drama to a song so that it stays etched in the memory.

Supporting him with characteristic subtlety and sureness of tone were his colleagues in the 1962, post Ben E King, version of The Drifters.

Giving the song an extra layer of poignant theatricality were a quartet of extravagantly talented session singers.

Leading these singers was Cissy Houston who brought tempered Gospel fervour and warmth to every record she ever sang on. She’s pictured below with The Sweet Inspirations.

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And, Boy Howdy, did Cissy sing on some great records!

With Elvis Presley, with Aretha Franklin, with Otis Redding – with Van Morrison among many, many, others.

Around Cissy circled her nieces Dee Dee and Dionne Warwick whose crystalline tones gave the song a shimmering aura.

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Dee Dee was a superb back up singer as fine lead singer as singles like, ‘We’re Doing Fine’, ‘I Want to Be with You’ and, ‘I’m Gonna Make You Love Me’ attest.

But it was the younger sister, Dionne, who caught the ear of Burt Bacharach. He recognised that her voice had an airy pellucid quality which would make her perfect for a new batch of songs incubating in his imagination.

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During the session for, ‘Mexican Divorce’ Burt asked Dionne if she would like to sing some demos for him.

And, the rest, as they say, is History!

Providing the arrangement ( no doubt head to head with Burt) and conducting the strings was Claus Ogerman.

Claus was a deeply schooled Jazzman who had found a niche for himself at Verve records working with major artists like Bill Evans, Antonio Carlos Jobim and Wes Montgomery.

On the Pop front he arranged, Leslie Gore’s ‘Its My Party’, ‘Cry To Me’ for Solomon Burke and ‘Don’t Play That Song’ for ex Drifter Ben E King.

Manning the Desk were the legendary duo of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller who always wanted to make sure a great song became a great Record.

Bacharach, Ogerman and Leiber & Stoller all loved the Cuban and Latin musical accents rife in New York City Dancehalls and on the airwaves.

Together they gave, ‘Mexican Divorce’ a flavour of the exotic.

Mexico is different and the song reflected that.

Scroll forward a decade or so and much nearer Mexico Ry Cooder brought his own unerring instinct for finding the heart of a song to, ‘Mexican Divorce’.

Ry and his superb Band take the song at a languorous tempo like a lonely sleepwalker on a hot night finding his way back to the house where he was once happy.

Plas Johnson plays the all hope is fading heart rending Sax.

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Jim Keltner, always the first call on the West Coast, plays the gorgeous sashaying drum part.
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Bobby King adds a sad sweetness with his harmony vocals.

And Ry Cooder?

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Ry plays the guitar and the mandolin with a riveting tenderness reminiscent of the great Mississippi John Hurt.

And sings like a man who is at the end of his rope.

The end of his rope.

For now, of course, there’s no welcoming light in any window.

Empty darkness all around.

Empty hangers twisting in the wardrobe.

Dust settling on the doors.

The road to Mexico unwinds.

Down below El Paso.

Across the borderline.

Where identities and statuses change.

One day married.

Next day free.

Broken hearts.

Broken hearts.