It is a moot point as to when the Christmas Season begins.
First Sunday of Advent?
Well, in my house, it begins the day I walk along the shelves of vinyl and with due reverence slide out, ‘Elvis’ Christmas Album’ which has been for 61 years now the best Christmas Album ever made.
If you want proof of that just cue up your stylus and play track 1 Side 1 – ‘Santa Claus Is Back in Town’ and marvel again at the sheer majestic glory that was the voice and persona of the young Elvis Presley!
The sensuous power of his singing here leaves the pretenders to his throne suffocating in dust!
Elvis don’t need no reindeer nor no sack on his back.
No, when he rolls up in his big black Cadillac – Whoa! Whoa! Whoa!
Here’s a Santa that will always be welcome back in town by every pretty baby the town can hold.
His magnetism, vocal assurance and sheer delight in his prowess shines through every bar.
There will always and forever only be one King.
The Alphabet Series continues on 15/17/19 and 21 December.
On celebratory occasions (my birthday, the birth of my Granddaughter) a decent measure of Malt Whiskey (no water, no ice).
Nothing to touch the Lagavulin 16 Year Old.
When Ireland recently magnificently beat The All Blacks at Rugby only a healthy slug of Bourbon seemed appropriate.
Given this was only the second victory over them in 111 years I felt justified in removing the racehorse stopper from my prized bottle of Blanton’s Original Single Barrel Kentucky Straight.
There’s also my tradition of sipping a fine Pale Ale immediately I hit the WordPress Publish Button and launch a new Immortal Jukebox Post towards the waiting World!
Bishop’s Farewell always hits the spot as I wait for the Likes and Comments to flow in.
So, if you ask me what I drink these days I answer – not much but when I do : One Scotch, One Bourbon, One Beer.
One Scotch, One Bourbon, One Beer.
Now, back in the days when I was to be found at my favourite Honkytonks three or four times a week it was often the case that as I approached the bar its custodian would say, ‘A Rudy T as usual Thom?’
and I would sing out, ‘Of course, One Scotch, One Bourbon, One Beer’.
One Scotch, One Bourbon, One Beer in honour of Rudy Toombs who wrote the greatest drinking song of all time.
I don’t want no soda nor bubble gum.
You got what I want just serve me some.
One Scotch, One Bourbon, One Beer.
Now didn’t that go down smoothly!
Amos Milburn, of course, a master of the relaxed groove at the piano and a singer who invites you to lean in and listen to a story you’re gonna want to retell more than a time or two – especially when you’ve had a drink or three.
‘Please Mister Bartender, listen here … I ain’t here for trouble so have no fear.’
John Lee is your go to guy if you want to be sure to get high, be sure to get mellow, be sure to find yourself feelin’ good, be sure to emphatically, absolutely, categorically Knocked Out!
On his high octane take John Lee benefits from the support of Lafayette Leake on the rippling piano, Fred Below on the pounding drums and Eddie Burns on the slashing guitar.
John Lee gives the song drive and spirit with his patented combination of voice, guitar and foot.
John Lee bent every song he ever played to his own will and the unique metre and tempo of his profound musical imagination.
He had a personal and musical presence that was genuinely awesome.
No use in trying to play like John Lee – you had to BE John Lee to play that way.
When it comes to shaking the floor and rattling the walls John Lee reigns supreme.
I only got to see John Lee four or five times and I treasure the memory of every one.
But, this next take comes from someone who I’ve seen on at least a score of stages, the unforgettable, irrepressible, unstoppable, Delaware Destroyer, George Thorogood.
You’re gonna need to drink a fair few pints when you go to see George just to replace the sweat you’ll exude as he puts the pedal to the metal.
George just loves The Blues and he brings every ounce of energy at his command to bringing his beloved music to life night after night all over the world.
This is a man who did 50 gigs in 50 States in 50 days and never missed a beat!
He’s on a kick and he sure as hell ain’t ever gonna get off until they screw down the casket.
Maybe your baby’s gone and it seems everything is lost.
They been out all night.
Never came back at the break of day.
What can you do?
What can you do?
Well, I don’t like to give advice to the love-lorn but if ol’ George was in town I’d down One Scotch, One Bourbon, One Beer and station myself right in front of the stage and let the music work its magic.
That Jersey audience struck lucky to see George on such fine form with the added bonus of a special appearance by none other than Elvin Bishop.
Wow, that’s some twin carburetor guitar power!
As I said at the outset I don’t really drink now like I did in the old days.
But, I have to admit, blasting Amos, John Lee and George out time after time as I wrote this Post made me work up one hell of a thirst.
Nothing for it but to line up The Lagavulin, The Blanton’s and The Bishop’s and join the party.
One Scotch, One Bourbon, One Beer.
Rudy Toombs – was a Louisiana native who became one the most able and prolific songwriters of the 1950s.
His songbook includes such classics as:
‘Teardrops from My Eyes’. ‘One Mint Julep’, ‘5-10-15 Hours’, ‘I’m Shakin” and, ‘Lonesome Whistle Blues’.
Amos Milburn – from Houston made a magnificent series of records for the Aladdin Label in the 40s and 50s.
My favourite tracks include – ‘ Down the Road a Piece’, ‘Rooming House Boogie’, ‘Let’s Make Christmas Merry, Baby’ and’Bad, Bad, Whiskey’.
Being the completest I am I have the Mosaic Label Box Set but there are many fine compilations of Amos available for those who want only the hits.
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!
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!
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!
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.
Manhattan. Queens. The Bronx. Staten Island. Brooklyn.
Harlem. Harlem. Harlem.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
Do The Harlem Shuffle.
The Harlem Shuffle.
Tail Feather well and truly shaken!
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’.
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)?
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?
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!
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?
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?
‘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?
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?
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?
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.
Garland Jeffreys – ‘Ghost Writer’.
IJ – Anything you’d like to add?
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.
Many thanks to Claire Jeffreys for setting up the Interview.
‘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.
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.
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.
They might even end up being damn near enough as big as The Beatles!
Somethings you never forget.
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.
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.
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.
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’.
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’.
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 ….
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’.
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.
Go to College or back to the job that’s been waiting for you.
Have a bunch of kids.
Paint the fence.
Mow the lawn.
Wash and polish the car.
Breathe easy and when the dreams come open the window and stare at the Moon.
It’s good to be alive when so many lie dead in foreign ground.
What more could you want?
Well it seems Junior wants something more.
Now, he can’t really put a name to it.
Except it ain’t hearing stories about how grateful he should be.
Grateful he doesn’t have to fight in a war.
Grateful he lives in a land of the free.
Grateful for these fine, fine, times.
He wants a new story to tell.
He doesn’t want, won’t have, can’t have, the story that’s planned out for him.
The one he’s supposed to be so grateful for.
The one where he gets born. Learns to dance (properly).
Strives to be a success. Bows his head to get blessed.
Makes his Mother and Father proud.
Keeps his head down and his nose clean.
Gets a good girl and a good job.
No. No. No. No!
He wants a story. A technicolor story, where he’s at the centre.
He wants Excitement.
He wants Danger.
One day he switches on the radio and Boom!
This is it!
Whether you call it Rock ‘n’ Roll or Rhythm & Blues …
THIS IS IT!
The world will never be the same again.
Elvis. Chuck Berry. Jerry Lee Lewis. Little Richard.
Your head’s just about ready to explode.
You stand out in the yard under the moon.
Under the Moon.
And you shout as loud as you can.
And you dance. You dance. You dance.
You Twist and Shout.
Twist and Shout!
Well, shake it up, baby, now (Shake it up, baby)
Twist and shout (Twist and shout)
C’mon C’mon, C’mon, C’mon, baby, now (Come on baby)
Come on and work it on out (Work it on out)
Boom! Boom! Boom!
Well, like The Brothers Isley say – Work it on out! Work it on out!
Now, if that don’t get you going I’m gonna have to send out an SOS for a defibrillator to get your heart started again!
The song was written by Bert Berns and Phil Medley and was originally recorded in early 1961 by The Top Notes for Atlantic Records.
Production was by the 21 year old Phil Spector.
And, he made a right royal mess of it!
So much so that Bert Berns, a very savvy dude indeed, was near apoplectic when he heard what Spector had done to his song; which he knew was a sure fire hit.
With the bit between his teeth Bert got the Isley Brothers into the studio in 1962 and crafted a classic record that has Gospel fervour, Rhythm and Blues drive and Rock ‘n’ Roll shazam.
That’s how you do it Phil!
Of course, Bert brilliant songwriter, arranger and producer that he was, didn’t do this all by himslelf.
First he needed singers with explosive energy who could take his song and wring every last drop of excitement from it.
Singers who could put on a dramatic performance which would demand that the listener put the needle back on the groove the instant it faded out.
Enter Ronald, O’Kelly and Rudolph Isley who were originally from Cincinnati.
With voices blending Gospel, R&B and Doo-Wop and a dynamite stage act The Isleys were bound to attract the attention of someone like Bert Berns who wrote songs crying out for impassioned vocals (think ‘Piece of My Heart’, ‘Cry to Me’ and ‘Under the Boardwalk).
The Isleys already had a million selling single to their name with their own cataclysmic, ‘Shout’ which had set Richter Scale dials aquiver all all over the record buying world.
To set the Earth shaking with Twist and Shout Bert called up King Curtis on Sax, Cornell Dupree and Eric Gale on Guitar, Chuck Rainey on Bass, Gary Chester on Drums and Paul Griffin on Piano.
Those guys knew what they were doing!
The public loved, ‘Twist and Shout’ and it became a substantial hit on both the R&B and Pop Charts.
The Isleys would go on to have a storied career featuring strings of hits and superb albums for the next four decades.
And, Bert, before his untimely death at the age of 38 in 1967, would prove himself one of the very greatest songwriter/producers of the 1960s.
The Jukebox will have much more to say about The Isleys and Bert Berns later!
Across the wide Atlantic Ocean in Liverpool a bunch of leery, leather clad Rock ‘n’ Rollers with ambition and swagger listened to ‘Twist and Shout’ and thought – we could really tear up the place if we can get this one right.
So it was for The Beatles.
‘Twist and Shout’ became a fixture of their live show and walls, drenched in sweat, in Liverpool and Hamburg shook as John, Paul, George and Ringo proved what a fantastic Rock ‘n’ Roll Band they were.
But, driving themselves and a complicit crowd into a Dionysian frenzy at a concert is one thing.
To reproduce that order of feeling in a recording studio is quite another.
Cut to the 11th of February 1963, one of the most significant dates in the history of popular music, popular culture and indeed history.
For that was the date The Beatles recorded their debut LP, ‘Please, Please Me’.
In one day – One Day! Over some 13 hours they recorded 10 songs and launched a career the reverberations of which are still shaking the world to this day.
Twist and Shout was the very last song they cut on that historic Abbey Road session.
And, they knew that.
John’s voice was almost shot and Paul, George and Ringo – despite the rivers of adrenaline that must have coursed through their veins that day – must also have been close to exhaustion.
In such circumstances there is only one thing to do.
Attack! Attack! Attack!
And, that, gloriously is what they did.
Every last ounce of energy went into this performance which still stands as a Rock ‘n’ Roll moment to match anything laid down by their legendary predecessors and inspirations – Elvis, Chuck Berry, Little Richard.
All those thousands of hours of performing in dingy dives were pressed into the service of making ‘Twist and Shout’ a record which came at you with the force of a tidal wave.
John Lennon’s vocal has a crazed commitment that is shocking in its elemental power and his fellow Beatles match him every step of the way.
Every step of the way.
As they packed away their instruments they must have looked around and thought – is this all true?
Did we really do that?
Where are we going now?
I like to think John, voice ravaged, turned to his friends and said:
“Well, well, where are we going now fellas?’
And Paul, George and Ringo would have replied:
‘To the top, Johnny to the very toppermost of the poppermost!’
And, I think we can all agree that’s exactly where they went and that they took us all along for the ride.