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Friday, April 22, 2011
Fang's contribution this week is pretty self explanatory, a mugshot from the Minneapolis PD circa 1969. I give this little zit-faced greaseball snaps for keeping his pre-Beatles hair do, and getting his gal Loretta's name tattooed on his arm in a decidedly amateurish font (in fact it looks kind of crooked). The mock turtle neck sleeveless makes me think he night be wearing one of Loretta's dresses. What do you think he did to get arrested, and where do you think he is today?
Monday, April 18, 2011
The Liverbirds in the Star-Club
It seems the last posting where I sighted a soft spot Freddie and the Dreamers has instigated a furor over what exactly is good, bad and mediocre music. In my opinion, great rock'n'roll usually has elements of all three, often in the same song. However the first (good) is never needed to make great rock'n'roll.
If you want good music you can listen to jazz or classical, rock'n'roll is supposed to be crude, stupid
and unpalatable. That's why we, or at least I love it. Which brings us to today's subject, the Liverbirds,
a Liverpool Beat combo who distinguished themselves by not only sitting when the piss, and having the ability to bleed for days on end without dying, but by being as competent as at least the Remo Four if not the Beatles themselves, whose John Lennon once opined that "they'd never make it".
While not even rating a mention in the standard text on the subject-- Alan Clayson's Beat Merchants (Blandord, UK, 1995) and only a passing mention in the same author's Hamburg- The Cradle Of British Rock (Sanctuary, UK, 1997), they did lay down enough wax to verify that they were as good or better than 90% of the other groups out there, could stomp out the Uber Beat with the best of them,
and are due for a full revival complete with documentary, biopic, and posthumous praise by current stars not fit to lick their cuban heels.
Formed in Liverpool in 1962, originally as the Debutones, the Liverbirds-- guitarists Pamela Birch and Valerie Gell, bassist Mary McGlory and drummer Sylvia Saunders (they all sang), played the basic Mersey set list made up of mostly U.S. rock'n'roll of the time-- Chuck Berry, girl group, early Motown, and made their mark in Hamburg, where they were more accepted than at home. They were regulars at the Star*Club, recording for the Star Club label, they scored one German top ten hit with a version of Diddley Daddy, cut at least one LP (I've heard mention of a second by never heard it), toured with the Rolling Stones, the Yardbirds, and the Detours (who would become the Who), and eventually in 1968 packed it in, three of the four members marrying Germans and settling in the greater Hamburg area. Pam Birch passed away in 2009.
One thing that separated the Liverbirds from their Mersey compatriots, beside the obvious one, is that unlike the Liverpool competition, they had a distinct Bo Diddley influence, keep in mind Bo was probably the only early rocker who tunes were never covered by the Beatles (which I'd say accounted for their clanky sound), and most of the U.K. wouldn't hear Bo's tunes until the Rolling Stones, Pretty Things and Yardbirds began playing them. In fact they had more in common with the London R&B bands than with the Mersey Beat sound. I like them better than most of the Liverpool groups except maybe the Swinging Blue Jeans, and as much as London's Downliner's Sect for that matter. Some of their better recorded sides were their rendition of Sir Douglas Quinet's (S)He's About A Mover, Bo Diddley's Mona (gives the Stones a run for their money), Road Runner, Bo Diddley's A Lover, and Before You Accuse Me, the Coasters' Down Home Girl, the Everly's Love Hurts (which sounds like the Velvet Underground with Moe Tucker singing), Chuck Berry's Too Much Monkey Business and Talkin' About You, as well as some originals like Why Don't You Hang Around Me, He's Something Else, Hands Off and Oh No Not My Baby. All excellent sides, and if the covers aren't as good as the American originals, they're better than anything you'll hear on the radio today. I won't insult the Liverbirds by saying their pioneering ways were responsible for some of the truly lousy female rock groups that came later, I'll just say they were a great band.
Saturday, April 9, 2011
Freddie & the Dreamers.
Freddie & the Hitch- Hikers.
The top clip, from the 1965 NME awards shows just what a maniac live performer Freddie Garrity (who died in 2006) was. I never liked I'm Telling You Now, their only U.S. hit, although I do love Do The Freddie, their attempt at a dance craze, but they could liven up a TV appearence like nobody's business.
Lester Bangs once called them-- "a triumph of rock as cretinious swill", as a lover of cretinious swill I concur.
The second clip was sent in by by reader Tom Lundin along with this article from the Denver Eye about Freddie & the Hitch-Hikers who cut the amazing Sinners b/w Mop Flop for Band Box in 1960. Great pix! Great record.
Monday, April 4, 2011
Pardon the crappy scan....
Same tune, different version...
Today's subject was born Alexander Lightfoot in Natchez, Mississippi on March 2, 1924, he would go through life calling himself George and recorded as Papa Lightfoot, although he would also be known Little Papa Walter and Papa George just to confuse matters. He taught himself to play harmonica, kicked around little clubs in Natchez and New Orleans where he hooked up with Edgar Blanchard's Gondoliers, an important R&B band that featured Tommy Ridgley on piano. In 1949, with the Gondoliers he cut his first record, recorded in Houston for Don Robey's Peacock label, backing up a singing drummer named Silver Cooks. Mr Ticket Agent Man b/w Coming Back Home while wasn't a particularly great record, it does have its charm, but it did not sell. Probably recorded at the same session were two tracks with Lightfoot as leader-- Papa George Blues b/w Lightfoot Boogie, which were evidently released, but I know of no one who has ever seen or heard this disc. A third set of sides from the session with Edgar Blanchard as vocalist were issued under Blanchard's name-- Creole Gal Blues b/w She'll Be Mine After A While, this disc is also extremely rare and couldn't have sold more than a few hundred copies at most. It is of interest mostly because the players are so out of tune with each other they sound drunk. Maybe all for the best, Lightfoot and Blanchard weren't a great match, Blanchard's band was urbane, and Lightfoot's own sound primitive and distorted.
Returning home, his next disc was issued in 1950 on the tiny Sultan label out of Natchez--Winding Ball Mama b/w Snake Hipping Daddy is again so rare I have never seen nor heard it, although one must exist since there's a picture of it on his trail marker on the Mississippi blues trail.
I include this information not because I want to see these discs on your want lists, but because I live with the dim hope that some reader somewhere, will sell, trade or better yet, give me copies of both the missing Lightfoot discs, which I will then file away and pull out and stare at, and maybe even listen to, into my waning days.
Two years later, back in New Orleans, Papa Lightfoot cut another four sides with Blanchard's band, this time they played mostly in tune. Issued on Aladdin-- first came P.L. Blues b/w Afterwhile, followed a few months later by Jumpin' With Jarvis b/w Blue Lights which were were all instrumentals, a fast boogie on the a-side and a blues on the flip, both discs very much in the style of then chart topper Little Walter. Again these sides sold naught and it would be two more years before anyone let Papa Lightfoot near a recording studio again. It was on April 17, 1954 in New Orleans when Papa Lightfoot cut his best session, this time for Imperial, backed by unknown musicians, he waxed the double sided distorted masterpiece Mean Ole Train b/w Wine Women Whiskey, singing through his harmonica mike, and backed by a driving beat, Papa had found his sound. Two more tracks recorded that day-- Jump The Boogie and a whacked out rendition of When The Saints Go Marching In would later see the light of day on Liberty's (which bought Imperial in the early 60's) Legendary Masters: Rural Blues series that Canned Heat's Bear Hite compiled in 1970. These four sides represent not just the best of Papa Lightfoot, but are among the crudest, most distorted, driving, and therefore best blues records ever made. His harmonica playing and singing are totally original, and the band just about thunders along behind him.
From there, Lightfoot recorded behind Champion Jack Dupree for King, toured the south, appearing on package shows with Fats Domino and Dinah Washington, cut an un-issued session for the ultra obscure Jiffy label, before washing up in Atlanta in 1954 for one session for Savoy where backed by Edwin "Guitar Red"Marie's band, he recut Mean Ole Train and a rockin' instrumental called Wildfire.
No matter what Wikipedia says, Lightfoot never recorded for Excello. In '54 he won a talent contest in Atlanta sponsored by middle of the road band leader Horace Heidt (who orchestra Art Carney had started with as a singing comedian) and toured theaters with Heidt's orchestra until 1958. What this music sounded like is anyone's guess, but I can only imagine what Mean Ole Train sounded like with Papa Lightfoot bellowing into his harmonica mike and Heidt's goofy arrangements behind him. Later Papa Lightfoot would tour with Smiley Lewis, appear in an obscure fifties film called Spooky Loot (1956), then he returned to Natchez where he hosted a radio show, and eventually found some sort of real job. In 1969 he recorded a pretty good album for Steve LaVere's Vault label in an attempt to build an audience amongst white blues fans. He would appear at the Ann Arbor Blues Festival in 1970, and drop dead less than a year later from respiratory illness. The best of early Papa Lightfoot (minus the Peacock and Sultan sides) can be found on a CD bootleg called Papa Lightfoot/Sammy Meyers, the Vault material, titled Natchez Trace, has been re-issued with many extra tracks, both are fairly easy to find. A full discography can be found here.
Friday, April 1, 2011
It's been awhile since we've run a found photo from the Fang (and there's still a few copies of the book
of the first fifty left, click here for details, and also ask about the catalog for her Help Me show).
Today's photo shows two slicks in cool, Italian cut suits, circa January 1968. The white Christmas tree is a nice touch, as is the plastic covered chair that old uncle Willie is sitting on in the rear right of the frame.
The real question in my mind is who is that on the bass drum head? It looks a bit like the Isley Brothers, one the drum head that is? Also notice that there's an adult size snare drum as well as the aforementioned kiddie kit in back. No drummer jokes please.