Sometimes the simplest questions are the hardest to answer.
Who do you say that I am?
When will the war be over?
Is he a good man?
How deep is the Ocean?
Do you love me?
Where are last year’s snows?
Where is your treasure?
Will everything be all right – in the end?
Ry Cooder a certified Jukebox favourite for the consistent brilliance of his guitar playing and his unerring taste in songs.
If it’s all right with Ry it’s all right with me!
Tim Drummond, Jim Keltner and David Lindsey lock in and you can be sure it’s gonna work out fine.
Ry hits and sustains that sweet tone and endless glowing landscapes open up before us.
I’m wagering Ry first heard the song via the barn burning 1961 version by Ike & Tina Turner.
That enough steam heat for ya?
There’s a tangled story behind the authorship and production as was so often the case in the Wild West like music business of those days.
The main songwriter was certainly Rose Marie McCoy.
Sylvia Robinson and Mickey Baker were in the studio (indeed they had recorded their own version in 1960) urging on Ike and The Ikettes.
Tina, being a force of nature, needed no urging on just letting loose!
A million or more record buyers agreed.
Manfred Mann, the man and the group, knew R & B history and knew how to marshall instrumental and vocal forces to delight the pop pickers of 1964.
Paul Jones vocals always oozed charm especially when surrounded by the shimmering warmth of Manfred’s keyboards.
The groups debut LP is one of the true highlights of the British Beat Era.
If you haven’t got it order it today!
Now Keith Richard started out as your dangerous older brother before becoming your what’s he done now the scoundrel uncle and now he’s everyone’s I’ll tell you a story of my young days you just won’t believe grandad.
All the while he’s cranked out the riffs that are permanent fixtures in Rock ‘n’ Roll hearts.
Ain’t an R&B, Blues, Soul or Country song from the golden era that ol’ Keith don’t know and can’t figure out a crunchy guitar part for.
So when he hooked up with old friend/flame Ronnie Spector it was not surprising they hit on Work Out Fine as a vehicle to highlight their shared history while having a right royal rollicking time!
Keith’s got the licks and Ronnie’s got the pipes.
Will the labourer have his rest?
Who will comfort the mourning?
Who will feed the hungry?
Has the salt lost its savour?
How many roads must a man walk down?
What will I do to so things will work out fine?
This Post for Don Ostertag, true friend of The Jukebox and teller of the best tales about the theatre and music worlds you’re ever gonna hear. Check out his Off Stage Blog on WordPress.
Other versions of Work Out you might enjoy are by The Spencer Davis group featuring Steve Winwood and a very soulful instrumental by Duke Levine.
If this is your first visit to The Immortal Jukebox you are very welcome here. Explore the 300 plus Posts in the archive! Visit often.
Of all the hundreds of Posts I have written for The Jukebox this may be my own favourite.
Sometimes it might take just a single beat of your heart.
A lightning strike seared into your memory: something really crucial has happened and whatever happens from now on it will be in the shadow of this!
Maybe it’s the first time alone together when she called you by your name and it felt like a new christening.
Or the time your toddling son folded his hand into yours without thinking as he looked for stability and security on the road ahead.
Sometimes it might take years; the slowly dawning realisation, (like a photograph emerging from the darkroom) that it was that moment, that event, which seemed so trivial at the time, where a new course was set that’s led you to your current harbour.
Moments, Moments, Moments.
Our lives in our imaginations and memories are never a complete coherent narrative but rather a silvery chain of moments: some cherished and celebrated some sharply etched with pain and sorrow.
Some in which we have the starring role and others where we are strictly extras in the shadows at the edge of the stage.
The older we get the more we learn that some of those moments have become our own immortal moments: the moments we will return to again and again, voluntarily or necessarily as we try to make some sense of our lives.
And, when we shuffle through these moments we will find many have been supplied by our encounters with the music, films and books that have become part of the imaginative and emotional furniture of our lives.
Snatches of lyrics and melodies from favourite songs that you find yourself unexpectedly singing; scenes from films that seem to be always spooling somewhere deep in the consciousness now spotlit in front the mind’s eye, lines of poetry read decades ago that suddenly swoosh to the surface, seemingly unbidden, in response to some secret trigger.
I remember the exact moment, as a teenager, when I idly picked up a dusty book in a rundown junk shop and read these lines:
‘ Thou mastering me God! Giver of breath and bread; World’s strand, sway of the sea Lord of living and dead; Thou hast bound bones and veins in me, fastened me flesh, And after it unmade, what with dread, Thy doing: and dost thou touch me afresh? Over again I feel thy finger and find thee.’
The opening lines of Gerard Manley Hopkins’ poem, ‘The Wreck Of The Deutschland’.
Rooted to the spot I read the further twenty or so stanzas with my head and heart ablaze.
I was aware of taking in only a fraction of the meaning and technique of the poem but I was absolutely sure that this was poetry of the highest order and that sounding its depths would be the work of a lifetime.
I had made an emotional and spiritual connection that could never be undone and Poetry with that capital P was now a territory open for me, necessary for me, to explore.
Strangely enough this was also the moment when I also glimpsed a future in which I might write poetry myself.
Similar thrilling encounters with literature, music and film now form a personal rosary of treasure in my life.
I want to share just two more with you here.
Marlon Brando and Eva Marie Saint as Terry and Edie in a duet scene from, ‘On The Waterfront’ from 1954 in pristine monochrome with wonderful cinematography by Boris Kaufman.
This scene played with such truthfulness, tenderness and delicacy by both actors struck me very forcefully at the moment when first viewed and it has continued to bloom in my memory and imagination.
If asked to give testimony for Marlon Brando as the greatest film actor of his time I would, of course, cite his thrilling physical presence and ability to dominate and take possession of the screen with special reference to, ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’.
But, it is this scene that would win the argument for me.
Brando here hits a peak of American naturalistic acting using the method techniques he had learned but without being imprisoned by them.
In this scene with humour, pathos and dignity and without a shred of affectation or disrespect he incarnates Terry as a living, breathing man who wins our sympathy, as fellow human strugglers, trying stumblingly to articulate our feelings both to ourselves and to those we love and those we yearn to love us.
Watch the way his body language evolves through the scene as he realises Edie is intrigued by him and interested in him for himself.
The way he picks up, plays with and finally wears her dropped glove (seemingly improvised) should be required viewing in every drama school.
Astonishingly, this was Eva Marie Saint’s film debut.
The camera obviously loved her at first sight.
As Edie she is a luminous quiet presence whose watchful stillness, intelligence and sensitivity makes it inevitable that Terry will fall for her and fall hard.
She understatedly lets Edie’s dawning love for Terry emerge as something as natural as drawing breath.
She believably illuminates Edie as a young woman with steel in her character as well as beauty and charm.
Acting with Brando, even for someone with her accomplished background on stage, must have been an intimidating challenge but there can be no doubt that Eva Marie Saint matched and balanced him through every frame of celluloid on show here.
At some heartbreaking level we understand that these fleeting moments of intimacy shared in this scene by characters afflicted by doubt and bruised souls will be moments they will both need to recall in the painfully tempestuous times ahead.
Maybe it’s an eternal truth as Dylan wrote that, ‘Behind every beautiful thing there’s been some kind of pain’.
Few scenes in cinema history bring out the truth of this statement with more clarity.
Mink Deville were led by Willy Deville a pompadoured and preening singer (finger on the eyebrow and left hand on the hip!) who showed himself throughout a roller coaster personal and professional life to be a supreme rhythm and blues and soul song stylist.
He had rasp and romance, swagger and sensitivity as well as presence and power in his vocal arsenal.
I recall the moment of seeing him for the first time on the British flagship chart music programme, ‘Top Of The Pops’ in 1977 and jumping out of my chair to applaud this performance of the signature tune of his early career, ‘Spanish Stroll’.
Willy added sass, instrumental colour and wasted seventies urban elegance to the magic and mystery of doo-wop and Brill Building vocal group harmonies to create a wonderful record that creates its own bright shining world every time you hear it.
His wonderfully liquid self regarding, shooting cuffs vocal is all strutting Latin braggadocio anchored in his assured rhythmic poise.
Special praise is due to the mellifluous backing vocalists who wonderfully evoke the steam heat of a New York night on a tenement stoop as they support Willy’s imperious lead role.
I love the ringing tones of the guitars, the Spanish flourishes, the proto rap intervention by bassist Ruben Siguenza, the tempo changes and the dreamlike woozy character of the whole song. Most of all, most of all, I love and keep returning to the moment when Willy sings the line:
‘Make a paper boat, light it and send it, send it out now.’
Especially those last three words.
Anyone who can make the heart leap with three simple words is an artist to cherish and revere.
I’ll write a full tribute to this great late lamented talent in due course but in the meantime trawl Youtube for a series of magnificent vocal performances and load up your shopping cart with his albums. You won’t regret it.
Coaches and Gurus and Snake Oil salesmen will portentously promise to reveal the secret to you.
Better save your money and your time and learn the things that can be taught – vocal exercises, relaxation, the whole assembly of skills that adds up to Technique.
You’ve either got it or you haven’t.
The gods or muses dispose as they will.
Hard to define but easy to recognise.
Cultural, emotional and spiritual impact.
You’ll recognise it when you confront it.
Mark Knopfler is a gifted songwriter and as a guitar player has undoubted Presence.
He is also canny enough to know that some songs require an extra ingredient that he does not possess.
A voice with Presence.
So, for his Song, ‘The Last Laugh’ he called up Van Morrison.
There must have been a moment in the studio as they listened back when Mark exhaled and smiled deeply as the sound of Van’s voice at the beginning of the second verse lifted the work to a wholly new level.
Emotional and Spiritual impact.
Sing it Van!
Games you thought you’d learned
You neither lost nor won
Dreams have crashed and burned
But you’re still going on
Out on the highway with the road gang working
Up on the mountain with the cold wind blowing
Out on the highway with the road gang working
But the last laugh, baby is yours
And don’t you love the sound
Of the last laugh going down
Very few singers merit the Bold and the Italics.
Van Morrison always has and always will.
Don’t you love the Sound!
Cultural, Emotional and Spiritual Impact.
Demonstrated time after time in studios and on stages from Belfast to Buffalo.
Hey Girl! Baby Blue. Brown Eyed Girl. Sweet Thing. Moondance..
Listen to The Lion.
The Healing has begun.
No Guru. No Method. No Teacher.
Just Van and that Voice.
It ain’t why, why, why, it just IS.
A voice capable of transcendence as only the rarest voices are.
A voice that reaches up to the Moon.
Don’t you love the Sound!
Van is 74 this week.
So, Happy Birthday Van!
A heartfelt thanks for all the Songs and all the Singing.
May your Song always be Sung.
if this is your visit to The Immortal Jukebox you are very welcome!
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There are more Posts about Van than any other artist here on The Jukebox so, in case you missed one or would like to be reminded of an old favourite here’s the Van Compendium for your delectation and delight!
Brown Eyed Girl’.
An introduction telling the tale of my headlong plunge into obsession following my first hearing of Van’s best known song.
Ry Cooder, Jerry Garcia, The Drifters, Clyde McPhatter, Wanda Jackson, Aaron Neville & a Mystery Guest.
I spend a lot of time in Book Shops.
And it’s clear from the groaning shelves that Recipe Books are very popular indeed.
So, here’s my pitch for a new title :
‘The Record Company Recipe Book : 4 Ingredients for guaranteed success!’
1. Perspective :
Most people can’t see and hear the significance and potential of what’s right in front of them.
That’s because they’ve accepted, usually unconsciously, the assumptions and prejudices of the culture they grew up in.
So it’s a great boon if you encounter a native culture through the perspective of a stranger.
Someone who can see the veins of gold where others see only bare stones.
2. Intellectual and Emotional Intelligence :
It’s one thing to see potential it’s another to imagine how that potential could be realised in the form of artistic achievement and monetary reward.
So, you’re going to need a sharp and innovative mind and honed emotional antennae because you’re in a business where you have to consistently please and win the loyalty of both loose cannon creatives and the great record buying public.
3. Build a Team of All the Talents :
OK. You’ve found some artists who have real talent but that represents only the above the water part of the Iceberg whole.
You won’t get Hits regularly and generate tons of greenbacks unless you have a talented and committed team driving every aspect of the process that results in the bonanza of a big fat Hit.
So – find songwriters who know music, who know artists and who can write songs that play to the strengths of those artists and the tastes of the men and women gathered around the Jukebox and the Record Shop counter.
So – find a group of flexible musicians who will definitely turn up for the session and who can play brilliantly in a wide variety of styles so that whoever’s in front of them sounds like the leader of a superb band.
Add in a Whiz Kid Engineer/Producer who makes the resulting record sound fantastic on tne radio, in the bars and juke joints and on the home Hi-Fi (even it’s actually very Low-Fi).
So – find business managers and marketing staff who are hard headed professionals completely wedded to the cause.
4. Keep the Recipe to yourself and add a magic ingredient :
So, Keep the team motivated and loyal.
You’re a band of brothers not a corporate clique!
And, you know that when it comes to Singers in particular there’s a deep mystery as to why some voices turn on all the coloured lights and have people begging for more.
So, if you find one of those Singers – move heaven and earth to sign them up and get that whole team on the case so that those coloured lights burn bright all over the nation.
I know this Recipe works because it’s exactly the one followed by Ahmet Ertegun the founder and presiding power behind the enormous success story that was and is Atlantic Records.
He had the Perspective as the teenage son of the first Turkish Ambassador to the US who fell instantly head over heels in love with Black Music – Rhythm and Blues and Jazz on first encountering them.
With brother Nesuhi he found deep veins of gold in Milt Gabler’s Commodore Music Shop to the extent that they amassed a collection of over 15,000 78s and became acquainted with musicians such as Duke Ellington and Jelly Roll Morton.
They promoted concerts and traveled to the sacred music sites in New Orleans and Harlem to listen first hand to the music and so develop a keen awareness of contemporary musical tastes.
There’s no doubt he had the intellectual and emotional intelligence.
When his father was recalled Ahmet knew his future lay in the US and that he could found a record company that would prospect for and discover black singers and musicians who could reach way beyond the, ‘Race Records Market’ if their work was professionally recorded and marketed.
Surely, that cat Ray Charles should stop trying to imitate Charles Brown and cut loose in the studio like he does at his shows?
The man’s a genius and I’m going to tell him so and together we’re going to revolutionise the music world!
People are going to know a Rhythm and Blues (so glad I brought Jerry Wexler who coined that term into the fold) record on Atlantic is guaranteed to get your heart thumping and your hips loosening and once they do they’ll be queueing up for each new release.
Team of Talents?
Well how about songwriters like Jesse Stone and Leiber & Stoller.
Musicians like ace Guitarist MIckey Baker and Sax Sensation Sam The Man Taylor.
How about that Kid Tom Dowd who Is an absolute wizard in the Studio! He keeps asking for new equipment and I keep saying yes because he makes our discs just sound better and better.
How about Miriam Abramson and Francine Wakschal in publishing and accounts. They know how every dime is spent and nobody gets to rip them or us off!
Magic Ingredient you say?
Well how about the time I want to see Billy Ward & The Dominos at Birdlland (mainly to hear Clyde McPhatter) and found Billy had just fired Clyde!
Now, though Clyde was the reason those Dominos’ records sold so well he didn’t get the credit as most people assumed Billy himself was the lead vocalist.
Clyde has captured true Gospel fervour and combined it with down and dirty R&B so that you gotta say, ‘OOOH – WEEE’ right along with him.
Lets sign him up and get him in the studio as fast as possible with some great singers behind him.
Jesse says he’s got a sure fire hit with a song called, ‘Money Honey’ (great title Jesse).
Sex and Money – top of pretty near everybody in the world’s wish list!
Can’t wait to hear Clyde light that one up.
Going to call the group, ‘The Drifters’.
Clyde knows the singers whose talents will perfectly frame his own.
Bill Pinkney has a smooth baritone, Gerhart and Andrew Thrasher have such sweet tenor voices while Willie Ferbie holds down the bottom end.
Got a feeling this ain’t gonna be no one off Hit.
Landlord ain’t gonna be ringing our Bell.
Lord, but this is going to sound great.
I’ll bet we sell a million and that years from now people will still be recording Money Honey – one thing I can tell you nobody will ever out sing Clyde!
No one ever topped Clyde for roller coaster, thrill a minute, I may just have to scream I’m so excited vocal drama!
There’s a wonderful confidence and certainty oozing from every second of the song as if everyone knows they’ve sure hit pay dirt this time.
Money Honey was recorded on 8 August 1953 as The Drifters debut 45.
Straight to the top of the R&B charts and taking up residence on the list for almost 6 Months.
And, straight into the affections of generations of singers and musicians.
Here’s Jukebox Hero Ry Cooder really getting into a groove before a live audience.
Ain’t no doubt about it Ry can really make that Guitar talk!
It’s the mark of a great musician to put their own stamp on a well known song and make you listen to it with a new sense of its depths and joys.
Ry is always welcome here and soon he will feature in an extended Post solely dedicated to his storied career.
Remember I talked about Clyde McPhatter’s roller coaster, thrill a minute, I may just have to scream I’m so excited vocal brilliance?
Well here’s the stupendous fireball Wanda Jackson proving that she can set your heart ablaze just as thrillingly with her own vocal pyrotechnics!
How can you not fall deeply in Love with Wanda!
And, Now, The Jukebox introduces the promised Mystery Guest.
Duffy Power is something of a secret hero of the 1960s British Blues and Rock’n’Roll scene.
He had plenty of talent but somehow the alignment of the fates and his own troubles meant he became a marginal cult figure whose sales never matched his achievements.
Listen to his take here and see if you agree.
Jerry Garcia was a true music afficianado.
With The Dead and with his various side projects he payed loving homage to the music that had inspired him in his youth.
He obviously got a great buzz out of playing Money Honey – returning to it decade after decade.
Well wasn’t that a Kick!
Now to conclude, sadly in the week that brother Art Neville died, a glorious version from the one and only Aaron Neville.
I think Clyde will be singing along with this one on the celestial choir.
Old school relaxed brilliance.
Owing more than a little to the presence of Keith Richards on Guitar.
Got to admit that one had me resurrecting my cartwheeling skills!
The sun may shine and the wind may blow.
Lovers come and Lovers will surely Go.
But today’s lesson is that a song like Money Honey is here to stay.
A 7 year old gets introduced to Jazz (and is never the same again).
’Before I wanted to play the drums I wanted to play the Alto Sax. Earl Bostic’s Flamingo was the record that turned me on to Jazz’ (Charlie Watts)
Up until the age of 7 I lived in Church Street, Paddington, just over a mile from Marble Arch the landmark that stands as the official centre of London.
Also a mile or so away was Abbey Road Studios where just before my 7th Birthday The Beatles began their epochal recording career.
Nearby was St Johns Wood Library.
Less than half a mile away from home was my parish church and the school where I began my academic studies.
Such were the coordinates of my early life.
Right at the centre, of course, was the home I shared with my parents and my younger brother.
Three rooms above a Betting Shop – a bedroom partitioned in two, a small living room and a tiny kitchen.
Outside torrents of sound from Church Street Market where you could buy anything from a hair piece to a hula hoop to a handsaw (and I dare say if you knew the right man to ask you could buy a Hawk too).
Now, I can’t swear the boy in the picture below is me (though his look and aura matches mine) but I do remember standing in some awe listening to the Salvation Army Sisters preach and sing uplifting hymns with the aim of saving souls.
Remember what those clever Jesuits said :
‘Give me a child for his first 7 years and I will give you the man.’
In my case almost certainly true.
The 7 year old Tom was; an obsessive reader, a hundred mile an hour talker and questioner and someone who always wanted to know the who, what, when, where and why about every topic that flashed across the mind.
Both my parents worked long hours in demanding jobs – looking back I must have exhausted them with my relentless enquiries yet they rarely showed any impatience with their effervescent son.
One, nigh infallible, way to staunch my chatter was to play music on the radio or even better to let me cue up a 45 on our Ferguson Radiogram (the pride of our Living Room).
You’ll know some of these as I’ve written about them here :
‘Runaround Sue’ by Dion,
‘Walking Back to Happiness’ by Helen Shapiro,
‘Right Said Fred’ by Bernard Cribbins and,
’Stranger on The Shore’ by Acker Bilk.
Where did we buy our records?
Why, where else but from a stall just yards from our door – in Church Street Market.
Listening to the stall holders was my introduction to spiel and patter and the art of the dramatic soliloquy :
’Now, listen here, gather round, I’ve got juicy tomatoes and melons as big as Sophia Loren’s’
’If you want your whites whiter than white you’ve got no right to go anywhere but John White’s right here!’
’I got cockles and I’ve got mussels, I’ve got eels all the way from the Sargasso Sea – have these every day and your brain will grow as big as Einstein’s’
And, my favourite clarion call :
’If its in the top 10 I’ve got it. If Elvis sang it, I’ve got it.
If its been on the bloomin’ BBC or Luxembourg I’ve got it.
If you can’t remember the name but you can hum it I’ll bet i’ve got it!’
That last peroration from Sid (Symphony Sid of course) who became my favourite stall holder and my most important teacher.
I took to hanging around Sid’s stall when he was closing up for the evening (don’t bother me when I’ve got customers queueing up boy!).
When he was packing up the vinyl treasure it was my chance to ask questions :
‘ I love Twisting The Night Away – tell me about Sam Cooke?
’well boy there ain’t no one alive or dead who sings as naturally as Sam. ‘Course you oughta know that his very best singing, his very best ain’t any of the pop stuff. No! If you want that you’ve got to listen to his gospel stuff with The Soul Stirrers – those records would make a believer out of the deepest atheist I’m telling you!’
’Some people say Elvis is no good since he went in the army but I think, ‘His Latest Flame’ is fantastic – how about you?
’Now Boy, you don’t want to be giving the time of day to those kind of people. I’m telling you 50 years from now the people who really know (and you might be one of ‘em) will tell you that (Marie’s the name) His Latest Flame backed with Little Sister might just be the greatest 45 that anyone, anyone, ever recorded!’
Weeks later he would test me to see if I’d been listening (if you don’t listen close Boy you ain’t ever gonna learn nothin’) :
’What was the gospel group Sam Cooke started out with?’
‘That would be The Soul Stirrers Sid!’
’Good Boy – Look I’ve got a copy here of Del Shannon’s Runaway with just a tiny scratch, fantastic sound that’ll put a your head in a swirl .. take that home now and let me pack up the van in peace.’
’Boy, what was on the other side of ‘His Latest Flame’?
’Easy, Sid, easy that would be Little Sister’.
’Spot on Boy – now I’ve got something special for you here been untouched on the back of this stall for many a year now but I’m telling you this one will outlast all your pop palaver … Earl Bostic playing the Alto Sax on ‘Flamingo’ .. got this off the Jukebox in an American Base .. listen to this Boy, it’ll put hairs on your chest and give you a whole new kind of dreams!’
And, that was how at 7 I got introduced to Jazz, the Alto Saxophone, Earl Bostic and Flamingo!
Now, it took another 7 years before those hairs sprouted on my chest but he was absolutely right about the dreams.
From the moment I first heard Earl’s fruity tone on the Alto Sax I was gone, solid gone.
I had never heard music with such blood and guts life force.
And, dig those Vibes!
Listening to Flamingo I was transported to a shadowy, black and white world where knives flashed and dames smiled dangerously from the doorways of clubs no one like me should ever be allowed to imagine let alone enter.
But that’s the great thing about imagination – once it’s released it’s released and there ain’t t no going back.
Earl became my idol and I drove Sid three quarters mad asking him to find me more Bostic.
Over the next few months along more Bostic beauties : ‘Temptation’, ‘Cherokee’, ‘You Go to My Head’, ‘Sleep’ and, ‘UpThere in Orbit’.
Each new disc became a sacred object for me.
Compared to the full bodied vigour of Earl Bostic most everything else seemed parched and anaemic.
But, like they say, you never forget your first and Flamingo was my first foray into Jazz.
Since then of course I’ve found out that Earl was a legendary saxophone technician with complete mastery of his horn.
I discovered that stellar Jazzers like Benny Carter, Teddy Edwards, Tony Scott, Stanley Turrentine and the blessed John Coltrane himself all played with and were influenced by Earl.
I learned that Earl believed Jazz should never lose sight of The Blues.
Blues had a character that got under the skin and a canny musician could extemporise around that character and have people smile and dance and spend their hard earned money freely.
Earl was very successful because you knew an Earl Bostic Record was going to be an unalloyed pleasure and that you would never, ever, grow tired of listening to Earl’s imperious sound.
Many years later, he became even more of a favourite when I came across a record called, ‘Brooklyn Boogie’ featuring the great Louis Prima and members of my favourite Baseball outfit The Brooklyn Dodgers and reading the credits realised it was written by none other than Earl Bostic!
There’s a legendary figure on the British Jazz scene called Victor Schonfield and I take my hat off to him for this summation of Earl Bostic’s career :
’.. his greatest gift was the way he communicated through his horn a triumphant joy in playing and being, much like Louis Armstrong and only a few others have done’
Bravo Victor and Bravo Bostic!
I’ll leave you with a little more personal history.
One of the many discoveries of our series of house moves over the last few years was a clutch of faded yellow exercise books from my primary school days.
Digging out the book from Spring Term 1962 I see that in very careful script I had answered a series of questions posed by the saintly Sister Mildred as follows :
Favourite Colour – Purple
Favourite Food – Fish and Chips
Favourite Football Team – Spurs
Favourite Book – Treasure Island
Favourite Music – Earl Bostic Flamingo!
Fifty Seven years have rolled around since then but I have to say I’m not minded to change a single answer.
Take it away Earl.
Blow, Mr Bostic, Blow!
I unreservedly recommend, ‘The Earl Bostic Story’ on the Proper Label.
‘It’s gonna take time, a whole lot of precious time ….’ (Rudy Clark/James Ray)
‘A true message always gets through – sometimes it just takes a while’ (Immortal Jukebox)
On 7 February 1964 Pan Am Flight 101 took off from London’s Heathrow Airport bound for New York City.
Thousands of young women, barely controlled by massed ranks of British Bobbies in blue, screamed and sobbed as the plane took off.
For this was no ordinary flight.
No, for Pan Am 101 was carrying a very special group of passengers whose arrival in America that day would change the course of History.
Those passengers were John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr – The Beatles!
When they touched down at JFK they were greeted by scenes of pandemonium as fans and the media pushed and shoved to get their first glimpse of the Fab Four.
The ‘British Invasion’ had begun and from that day on for the rest of the decade there was no question about who the most popular and successful group in the world was and who were the most famous and instantly recognisable faces on the entire planet.
But, before an invasion there is usually a reconnaissance.
You send a scout ahead.
And, for The Beatles, the scout was George Harrison.
For though The Beatles didn’t land on the soil of the Promised Land until February 1964 George had spent two weeks there in September 1963.
Well, George was the youngest of the three Harrison siblings.
Brother Peter was three years older than George but Sister Louise was 12 years older and long before The Beatles were even a madcap dream in the minds of John and Paul she had left the grim austerity of post War Liverpool to travel the world with her mining engineer husband.
And, in September 1963, she was living at 113 McCann Street, Benton, Illinois a coal town with a population of under 10, 000 souls.
After the release of ‘She Loves You’ in Britain in August 1963 Brain Epstein decided that in view of the immense workload they had already completed and the even more taxing plans he had for their future it was time The Beatles took a break.
John went to Paris while Paul and Ringo jetted off to Greece.
George, with brother Peter, went to Benton to visit Louise, arriving there on September 16th.
His time in Benton would be for George, as Paris and Greece would be for his fellow Beatles, the last time they could ever walk the streets of any town or city without being instantly recognised and/or mobbed.
George would always remember his first, incognito, exposure to American culture and wonder at the freedom of being able to wander at will wherever he pleased.
On that trip he bought a Rickenbacker at the Fenton Music Store at 601 South 10th Street, Mt Vernon, IL for $400.
He would play this on the pioneering UK TV Show, Ready, Steady, Go’ on 4 October.
Along with Louise he hitchhiked to Radio Station WFRX and presented them with a mint copy of, ‘She Loves You’.
He also hooked up with a guy called Gabe McCarty a member of a local group called the Four Vests and on 28 September George took the stage with them at The Veterans Hall in Eldorado.
The patrons that night were the first Americans to hear George rip into, ‘Johnny B Goode’, ‘Matchbox’ and ‘Roll Over Beethoven’.
George flew back to England on October 3rd.
In his luggage, along with the precious Rickenbacker, was more treasure in the form of vinyl.
George, a true fan of music as well as a musician, had haunted the record stores in Illinois and NYC looking for gems that were hard to find at home.
No one in the stores had ever heard of The Beatles but the shelves groaned with records that George had only ever read about in magazines or heard about from American musicians he had met in Hamburg.
He bought a lot of premium Blues and R&B sides by the likes of Booker T and the MGs and Bobby Bland.
His eye was particularly caught by an LP bearing the name of James Ray on the Caprice Label.
He knew the name because The Beatles had been regularly featuring Ray’s hauntingly other-worldly, ‘If You Gotta Make a Fool of Somebody’ since Paul had found a copy at Brian Epstein’s NEMS Record Shop.
Spinning the platter back at 113 McCann he became especially fond of one track in particular – ‘I’ve Got My Mind Set On You’ and his love and admiration for the song would survive the madness of Beatlemania and the glory days of his solo career.
George could instantly recognise that there was a keening, spiritual, quality in James’ voice that gave a profound allure to everything he sang.
Sing it James!
The song was written by Rudy Clark who had written, ‘If You Gotta ..’ and would go on to write, ‘Good Lovin’, ‘Its in His Kiss’, and, ‘Everybody plays The Fool’ among other Hits.
The, ‘Let’s try everything we can think of’ arrangement was by Hutch Davie who had played the piano on, ‘Green Door’ and arranged Santo & Johnny’s wonderful guitar instrumental, ‘Sleepwalk’.
What lifts the track beyond a novelty of its time is James Rays’ stunning vocal.
James can really sing.
There is a yearning, as long as I’m singing this song I can make it through, quality to James’ voice which makes me hit the repeat button repeatedly every time I play any side he ever cut (and tragically there are probably less than 30).
You get the sense that there are ghosts hovering round James whispering secrets from beyond the veil and that James can’t help but hear even though he knows those voices are calling him to follow to the lands across the Styx.
We know so little about this wonderful artist.
It seems he was born James Ray Raymond in Washington D.C in 1941 and that he served some time in the Military.
He first appears on record in 1959 as, ‘Little Jimmy Ray’ (he was all of 5ft tall on tip toe) but it is not until he hooked up with Rudy Clark and Gerry Granahan at Caprice Records that he made anything that stirred the airwaves or set the nickels flowing on The Jukeboxes.
‘If You Gotta Make a Fool of Somebody’ has been recorded by Aretha Franklin, Bonnie Raitt, Ben E King, Lou Rawls and Bobby Gentry – superb artists all – yet not one of them has approached the spectral grace of James’ version (I plan to write a dedicated Post on the song later this year).
It seems that James had a drug problem and that when he was, ‘discovered’ by Rudy Clark he was homeless and finding such shelter as he could on apartment block rooftops.
He only recorded one LP and even the date and place of his death and where he is buried are unknown.
It seems likely that he was already dead when The Beatles landed at JFK.
In a business filled with tragic tales James’ tale is among the most tragic.
Yet, thanks to George Harrison and the other luminaries his name lives on at least for those who read sleeve notes and song writing credits.
George recorded his take on ‘I’ve Got My Mind Set On You’ some 24 years after he first encountered it back in Benton.
His version is considerably more upbeat in tone than James’.
The song was recorded in George’s home studio within Friary Park his 120 room neo-gothic mansion.
Stellar musicians like Jim Keltner on Drums and Jim Horn on Saxophone feature on a characteristically multi layered production by Jeff Lynne who also provides creamy backing vocals.
This record is very much a 1980s record with a big sound that along with the winning video demolished all hesitation in the record buying public.
A Number One Hit!
It is not inconceivable that many seeing the song on MTV did not know this George Harrison fellow’s History!
Certainly not one in 10,000 who bought the record knew anything about James Ray.
But George did and I can’t help but think he had a thought for James as he recorded it and when he played it live.
Talking of live action here’s George giving the song the full lash in Japan backed by Eric Clapton’s ensemble.
Now, I love George’s version but it’s not the one I sometimes wake up singing.
No, it’s James Ray’s version which lingers like morning mist in my imagination.
James Ray’s voice was stilled some sad day in the mid 1960s but the eerie sound of his voice will always echo on and on.
Sing it James.
Notes and Call for Information!
There’s an excellent website toppermost,co.uk (Twitter @AgeingRaver) which publishes highly informative and entertaining top 10s on many artists beloved by The Jukebox.
The entry on James Ray written by the learned Dave Stephens (Twitter @DangerousDaveXX) is excellent.
The only CD I can find for James Ray is, ‘If You Gotta Make A Fool Of Somebody – Golden Classics’ on the Gotham Label. Only 12 tracks and poorly presented but every track demands your attention.
If anyone knows anything more about James Ray’s life and death please let me know.
Also there’s surely a great documentary to be made about George’s time in Benton and about the fellow passengers on Pan Am 101 – again anyone who has any stories let me know!
In April 1961 Allen Toussaint went into the J&M Studios in New Orleans with Ernie and a hand picked crew of musicians and emerged with a multi million seller which became the first Pop Number One from the Crescent City (a feat denied to Fats Domino and Little Richard).
A record that kept Del Shannon’s ‘Runaway’, Ricky Nelson’s ‘Travelin’ Man’ and Gene McDaniels’ ‘One Hundred Pounds of Clay’ off the top of Billboard.
And that record was?
Don’t tell me you don’t know, ‘Mother-in-Law’.
As Ernie said (and I ain’t about to argue) :
”There aren’t but three songs that will last for eternity,’ ”One is ‘Amazing Grace.’ Another is ‘The Star-Spangled Banner.’ And the third is ‘Mother-in-Law,’ because as long as there are people on this earth, there will always be mother-in-laws.”
Once you’ve listened to it fifty times or so (in the first week you come across it!) you wont be arguing with Ernie either.
I trust you’ve got your dancing shoes on ’cause you’re sure gonna need ’em!
Burn, K-Doe, Burn!
You just good, Ernie, that’s all!.
Now, ain’t that good for what ails you?
If skies are grey, the mailman hasn’t called for a month and your doctor won’t even tell you what it is you got I prescribe three spins of, ‘Mother-in-Law’ and I guarantee you’re going to feel a whole lot better.
Allen Toussaint brought all his skills as a songwriter, piano player, band leader, producer and arranger to Mother-in-Law.
The tempo is just right – a relaxed shuffle that demands you sway along to it.
The pitch perfect bass answering vocal comes courtesy of Benny Spellman.
Later on Ernie returned the favour by singing back up on Benny’s ‘Lipstick Traces (on a Cigarette) another classic from the pen of Allen Toussaint.
The riverboat setting out sax is provided by Robert Parker (previously featured on The Jukebox with, ‘Barefootin’).
Stirring al the ingredients ’til everything was just so and providing the addictive piano throughout was Allen Toussaint himself.
Well Ernie provided charm by the bucket load and sang lead with a smile so broad you can hear it in every groove.
And, that Ladies and Gentlemen, is how you confect an all time classic!
At this point I must issue a Formal Disclaimer.
My own Mother-in-Law, Enid (RIP), whom I miss greatly could not have been more warm and welcoming to me when I appeared as a prospective Son-in-Law.
Far from being sent from ‘Down Below’ she was clearly sent here from Above.
Ernie gloried in the success of ‘Mother-in-Law’ but though he made many fine records subsequently he was never to have another mega hit.
What he did become through the force of his personality was a bona fide New Orleans legend.
And, far away across The Atlantic, deep in the Surrey Rhythm & Blues Delta, Eric Clapton with The Yardbirds chose to record another Ernie K-Doe and Allen Toussaint song for their debut single.
Later on, the great Warren Zevon (due to feature on The Jukebox soon) brought his own lascivious lupine genius to the song.
Still and all it’s Ernie’s version that gets me on the dance floor – you just cant beat that New Orleans strut on a ‘Certain Girl’.
Tempo, Tempo, Tempo!
Ernie’s national and International career was cast into the doldrums by the British Invasion and the rise of Motown.
Still, Allen Toussaint remained faithful to an old friend and in 1970 brought Ernie into the Studio with New Orleans finest.The Meters, and crafted a superb album which featured a guaranteed smash hit in any sane world, ‘Here Come The Girls’.
Except, as we all know all too well, we very often live in an insane world – so Here Come The Girls came out and promptly vanished into the ether.
Just listen to the joyous funk of this track and wonder what you have to do to have a Hit!
Times were hard for Ernie from the mid 70s to the end of the 80s.
He grew far too fond of The Bottle and seemed unable to recover that winning charm.
It was the love of a good woman, Antoinette Fox, that saved him.
She convinced him to bid the booze goodbye and gave him the energy to relaunch his career as a performer and crucially for his local profile as a Radio DJ for WWOZ and WTUL.
Ernie’s outsize personality found a ready audience and he became a much loved figure once again in his Hometown.
He loved to dress up to and beyond the nines and as the host in his own, ‘Mother-in-Law’ Bar and Lounge he was entirely capable of singing ‘Mother-in-Law’ ten times in a row and having the audience roar along with every word!
Ernie died in July 2001 as a revered elder statesman of the Crescent City music scene and he was later, quite properly, inducted into the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame.
Oh and as The Jukebox has told you before, and will again :
‘A true message always gets through. Sometimes it just takes a while’.
For in 2007 some bright spark in the British advertising world had the brilliant idea that the perfect song to sell Make Up products for Boots (a chain of Pharmacies long a staple of the British High Street) was none other than Ernie K-Doe’s, ‘Here Come The Girls’!
It featured in a series of Ads that everybody from 8 to 80 loved and sang along to with gusto. Soon, ‘Here Comes The Girl’ was a genuine hit and the shade of Ernie must have laughed and said, ‘I knew, I always knew, it was a Hit!’
Burn K-Doe burn!
You just good Ernie, that’s all.
I’m going to wrap it up today with an Easter Extravaganza for y’all.
Here’s Ernie with Allen reliving those golden days and thrilling us all.
Burn K-Doe, Burn!
Oh, and I must admit it’s been a long, long, time since I’ve spontaneously launched into a rendition of, ‘Amazing Grace’ or ‘The Star Spangled Banner’.
But, quite often, when I’m walking in the South Downs Hills, bubbling out of my subconscious comes :
’Mother-in-Law (Mother-in-Law) ….. and the miles fly by.
Ernie was the ninth of eleven children.
His father was a Baptist Preacher so Ernie, as so many, began his singing career in the Gospel tradition – his early hero being the stupendous Archie Brownlee from the Five Blind Boys of Mississippi.
After a few years in Chicago as a teenager he returned to New Orleans and was talent spotted by Bumps Blackwell.
However, it was only when he signed to Minit Records and came under the tutelage of Allen Toussaint that his career blossomed.
Further Tracks by Ernie that I love include :
’Hello My Lover’, ‘I Cried My Last Tear’, ‘Te-Ta-Te-Ta-Ta’ and ‘Popeye Joe’.
Ben Sandmel has written a very enjoyable appreciation of Ernie in, ‘Ernie K-Doe : The R&B Emperor Of New Orleans’.
We want to stretch out our hand to someone who says, with feeling, ‘I know, I know, I know exactly what you mean’.
Yet, so often, we feel, far from being truly understood, we are instead misunderstood.
Living day to day can be so hard.
We make mistakes.
We let ourselves down.
No one alive can always be an angel.
Sometimes it seems all we have to do is worry, worry, worry.
We regret those foolish words so carelessly spoken.
Oh, but at heart, in our soul, to get through another day, to live companionably, we must believe our intentions are good.
Oh Lord, please don’t let me be misunderstood.
Oh Lord, please don’t let me be misunderstood.
An artist of the first degree.
A musician, singer and performer sharing the stature of Bessie Smith, Billie Holliday and Aretha Franklin.
Not that you can compare her artistry to anyone else.
There has never been anyone like Nina Simone.
A naturally gifted pianist and a singer who made every song she ever sang her own.
She grew up in in pre War South Carolina where strict limits were imposed on the ambitions of young black girls – however talented.
Her originality, her sensitivity and her intuition which were integral to her greatness as an artist made her acutely, painfully, aware of the savage injustice she was heir to as a proud Black Woman and artist in the land of her birth.
So, when Nina Simone sang there was always wounded pain informing the beauty she created.
She brought fierce attention to a song melding the personal and the political with irresistible force.
‘Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood’ is in her reading a plea for personal and political justice and respect from a casualty of wilful misunderstanding – including her misunderstanding of herself.
Listening, you feel suspended in time, swaying in tempo, as Nina Simone with her poised piano and bruised vocal excavates layer after layer of meaning and emotion.
Listening, you hear a blues, you hear a spiritual, you hear echoes of No More Auction Block, you hear echoes of All My Trials, you hear a cry from the heart.
Listening to the way she bites into and stretches the words misunderstood, good and joy for maximum effect.
There is a gravity in her performance of this song which I find emotionally overwhelming.
Nina Simone cuts deep and listening to her is both immensely rewarding and profoundly disturbing for there can be no ignoring the dark truths about humanity and society she so often revealed.
Nina Simone paid a high price in personal terms for the truths she told.
We are all in her debt for the courage and fortitude with which she pursued her vocation and for the many treasures she bequeathed through her records.
I estimate that there are over 400 versions of, ‘Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood’ in the catalogue.
I have listened to twenty or so before writing this Post.
I found merit in the versions by Joe Cocker, Julie Tippets & Brian Auger, Mary J Blige and especially in that of Meshell Ndegeocello.
But, it seemed to me there was only one version that I could, in all conscience, present in the same Post as that of Nina Simone.
The pride of Newcastle.
They were specialists in sourcing songs from the blues tradition and turbo charging them through the lacerating power of Eric Burdon’s vocals and intensity of the arrangements led by Alan Price’s entrancing Organ and Hilton Valentine’s down these mean streets Noir Guitar.
I have read that Bob Dylan jumped out of his car and shouted with amazed delight when he first heard The Animals take on, ‘House Of The Rising Sun’ which they had found on his debut LP.
I would not venture to guess what Nina Simone made of their version of, ‘Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood’ yet we can say that it is an intensely driven, masculine, version that can never be forgotten once heard.
Certainly, Bruce Springsteen, a major Animals devotee, must have had this version in his head as he wrote, ‘Badlands’.
While no one could attempt to match the Nina Simone original The Animals version, a classic in its own right, became the essential template for almost all versions that followed.
We will always be in search of understanding.
We will always be edgy, have regrets and be filled with worry.
While wanting desperately to be understood we will misunderstand others and ourselves.
That’s what it is to be human rather than an angel.
Ah but, if we could, if we just would pay proper attention to each other and the world around us we might in our journey come to understand that every hair is numbered like every grain of sand.
We might come to live in the land of spices.
We might hear church bells beyond the stars.
We might find something understood.
Sing it Nina.
Nina Simone’s original version can be found on her 1964 Album, ‘Broadway, Blues, Ballads’.
The Animals version was released in January 1965 – it was a substantial world wide hit.
The writers of the song were Bennie Benjamin, Horace Ott (who arranged and conducted the Nina Simone version) and Sol Marcus.