A new show will go up every Thursday throughout 2016, with the sleeve notes following by the Saturday.
13TH FLOOR ELEVATORS “You’re Gonna Miss Me”
“The saga of the 13th Floor Elevators was an Old Testament tale and Roky Erickson was its Job,” – Julian Cope.
Roky Erickson was a misfit kid who loved rock and roll. In 1965, he dropped out of high school a month before graduating to become a musician. Later that year he and his first band, the Spades, made their first single, the crude and hypnotic “We Sell Soul.” Written by Erickson using the pseudonym Emil Schwartze, it has the bare-boned elements of what would become the sound of his next step.
Shortly after the Spades dissolved, Erickson formed the 13th Floor Elevators with other like-minded souls. The band signed to the Texas-based International Artists label and released their classic debut single, “You’re Gonna Miss Me,” in early 1966.
Their mind-blowing debut album, The Psychedelic Sounds of the 13th Floor Elevators, would follow that summer.
“You’re Gonna Miss Me,” was a minor hit, making it all the way up to No. 55 in the summer of that year, staying on the charts for nearly two months.
TEMPTATIONS “Get Ready”
The original Temptations version of “Get Ready”, produced by Smokey Robinson, was designed as an answer to the latest dance craze, “The Duck”. The Temptations’ falsetto Eddie Kendricks sings lead on the song, which Robinson produced as an up-tempo dance number with a prominent rhythm provided by Motown drummer Benny Benjamin. In the song, Kendricks informs his lover to “get ready” because “I’m bringin’ you a love that’s true”. Melvin Franklin sings lead on the pre-chorus: “fe, fi, fo, fum/look out/’cause here I come” along with several other similar lines. The song made it to number one on the U.S. R&B singles chart, while peaking at number twenty-nine on the pop charts.
The group’s previous singles since “My Girl” had all landed in the U.S. Pop charts (and R&B charts) Top 20. However “Get Ready” only just scraped into the Top 30.
The song did eventually become a Top 10 pop hit, but not by the Temptations, but by the Motown rock band Rare Earth.
In 1970, Motown’s rock band Rare Earth released a massively successful cover version of the song as a single.
21-minute version of the track appears on Rare Earth’s first album but it’s not for the faint-hearted.
THE UGLY’S “The Quiet Explosion”
Far superior B-side of “A Good Idea” :
The choice of name for Birmingham’s “The Ugly’s” was deliberate and not a reference to the physical appearance of band members as their van became covered in messages lovingly scrawled in lipstick from their many female fans. When interviewed for the Midland Beat newspaper, the group said; “It brings us embarrassing moments but we are achieving our object by using the name. You see, interest is aroused as soon as we are advertised to appear anywhere. People come along to see if we really are ugly!”
The Ugly’s third single for PYE featured Steve Gibbons playing a ‘kazoo’ on the A-side titled ‘A Good Idea’ which in retrospect may not have been a good idea as the single’s B-side is really the stand-out track. ‘The Quiet Explosion’ is a lost psychedelic classic complete with freaky organ and echoey bass.
This was certainly ahead of its time when considering The Beatles had only just started experimenting with strange sounds on their ‘Revolver’ album.
Despite a promotional TV appearance on ‘Thank Your Lucky Stars’, this Uglys single sank without trace and three decades passed before its flip side gained rightful recognition on a CD release.
DAVID BOWIE & THE LOWER THIRD “Can’t Help Thinking About Me”
If “Can’t Help Thinking About Me” was David Bowie trying to sound more like the Kinks than the Kinks did, and succeeding , then the B-side “And I Say To Myself” found the young pop chameleon trying on the teenage hearthrob crooner’s sweater for size – “Tonight, Matthew, I’m going to be Peter Noone”
THE BOBBY FULLER FOUR “I Fought The Law”
It is a misconception not universally acknowledged that when an artist is known for one hit and no others, that one hit was the absolute peak of their songwriting and musical creativity. They concentrated everything into those two and a half to three minutes and made no other records worth hearing.
Of course in some cases this is actually true – but not in the case of the Bobby Fuller Four.
Bobby Fuller is remembered as something of a Fifties throwback who recreated old-fashioned Buddy Holly-sounding records with precision and perfection, culminating in his most famous song “I Fought The Law”
He did so much more than the admittedly classic “I Fought The Law” though, including “My True Love”, “Only When I Dream”, “Never To Be Forgotten” and “Fool Of Love” (below).
THE GUYS FROM UNCLE “The Spy”
A cracking Northern Soul track about which very little is known. Check out the intro, a full six years before Isaac Hayes’ the Theme From Shaft
There was a vocal version credited to “The Girls From Uncle” called Agent Of Love, equally great, equally obscure.
THEM “Could You Would You” (from the album “Them Again”)
The band’s second and, for all intents and purposes, last full album was recorded while Them were in the process of breaking up.
Apart from Van Morrison’s vocals and Alan Henderson on Bass, it is not clear who actually played on the album although Jimmy Page probably played guitar on a few tracks at least.
The songs here are a little less focused than the first LP, they don’t really fit together as an album, encompassing too many different styles, but there’s still some excellent songs here
The material was cut under siege conditions, with a constantly shifting lineup and a grueling tour schedule; essentially, there was no “group” to provide focus to the sound, only Morrison’s voice, so the material bounces from a surprisingly restrained “I Put a Spell on You”
to the garage-punk of “I Can Only Give You Everything.”, both of which you’ll hear in forthcoming shows but this week we’ve picked the opening track Could You Would You.
You’ll hear a track every week on Retro Beat Sixty-Six throughout January from Them Again, one of our two albums of the month for January 1966.
THE MANHATTANS “Follow Your Heart”
Best known for their soft 70s soul hit Kiss And Say Goodbye …
… the five members of The Manhattans hailed from New Jersey which seems to be the origin of the name – “You could see the Manhattan skyline right across the water from Jersey City. It was an easy name to remember, and we just thought it sounded classy”. Either that or they were named after the Manhattan cocktail – the surviving band members are a little hazy in recollecting which version of the story is correct.
Tages were a Swedish band formed in the early sixties near Gothenburg.
The band released a number of singles and LPs in their native Sweden to considerable success, making the Swedish Top Ten more than a dozen times.
Later in the year Tages released “Extra Extra”, regarded as one of the world’s first psychedelic albums.
Though remembered as one of the finest non-English speaking bands of the 1960s, they failed to ever really break into the US or UK markets.
Accepting that they would never break the Anglophone markets their later records mix in traditional Swedish folk music influences culminating in their fifth and last album, “Studio” (recorded, oddly at Abbey Road in London)
Here’s another track from 1966 with some dodgy miming (hey, you think it’s hard to mime, try it in a language other than your native tongue)
BOB DYLAN “Can You Please Crawl Out Your Window”
Recorded during the sessions for Dylan’s 1965 album “Highway 61 Revisited”, “Can You Please Crawl Out Your Window” was released as a non-album single in late 1965 and performed creditably onm both sides of the pond. Dylan is backed for this song by he Hawks – Robbie Robertson on guiter, Rick Danko on bass, Richard Manuel on piano, Garth Hudson on organ and Levon Helm on drums
PAUL REVERE & THE RAIDERS “Just Like Me”
One of the most popular and entertaining rock groups of the 1960s, Paul Revere & the Raiders enjoyed seven years of serious chart action, and during their three biggest years (1966-1969), sold records in numbers behind only the Beatles and the Rolling Stones.
They were very much aware of and played up the theatrical side of rock and roll and were unfairly dismissed by critics of the time as being “a bit too showbiz” but their string of hits – “Steppin’ Out,” “Just Like Me,” “Hungry,” “Him or Me — What’s It Gonna Be,” and “Kicks” in particular — are actually decent unpretentious pieces of ’60s punky rock & roll.
“Just Like Me” was their biggest hit to date and led to the rush-release of the album “Just Like Us”, which you’ll hear tracks from later in January on Retro Beat Sixty-Six.
SLIM HARPO “Baby Scratch My Back”
“Baby Scratch My Back” was Slim Harpo’s only #1 on the soul singles chart where it stayed for two weeks. “Baby Scratch My Back” also crossed over to the Top
40 and was Harpo’s most commercially successful single.
Never a full-time musician, Harpo had his own trucking business during the 1960s.
He needed to tour constantly and play as much as possible; times were frequently lean financially and you have to put food on the table, when it comes right down to it.
But, by 1964, several of his tracks had been released on albums and singles in the UK, and British rock bands like the Rolling Stones, the Pretty Things, the Yardbirds, the Kinks, Pink Floyd and Them began to feature versions of his songs in their early repertoires. The Moody Blues reportedly took their name from an instrumental track of Slim’s called “Moody Blues”
Slim Harpo was no purist – his material proved to be quite adaptable for white artists on both sides of the Atlantic (see the Rolling Stones and others’ versions of “I’m A King Bee”.
A crowd-pleasing club entertainer, he certainly wasn’t above working rock & roll rhythms and country and western vocals into his music.
He had his biggest commercial success in 1966, when the predominantly instrumental “Baby Scratch My Back” reached no.1 on the R&B chart and no.16 on the US pop chart. Harpo described it as “an attempt at rock & roll for me.”
Here’s the B-side “I’m Gonna Miss You Like The Devil”
THE SPENCER DAVIS GROUP “Let Me Down Easy” (from “The Second Album”)
One of the most exciting and influential groups to come out of Birmingham in the early 1960s, the Spencer Davis Group is recognized for their classic and ground-breaking recordings as well as for launching Steve Winwood’s music career.
The Spencer Davis Group comprised Spencer Davis on organ, Steve Winwood on guitar and vocals, his brother Muff Winwood on bass and Pete York on drums.
It was Muff Winwood who came up with the name ‘Spencer Davis Group’ on the pretext that the articulate Davis could do the interviews while the others stayed in bed – maybe not the best idea since the band became associated with Spencer’s name whereas their major unique selling point, sonologically speaking, was Stevie Winwood’s incredible strong, rangy voice.
Up to mid-1965 this time, the songs performed and recorded by the Spencer Davis Group were covers of existing blues and R&B standards but Chris Blackwell brought in Jamaican singer/songwriter Jackie Edwards to compose the next three singles for the group. The first was ‘Keep On Running’ which was transformed by the group into a rocking R&B number with the addition of a driving bass riff and a unique (for that time) electric fuzz guitar effect. The result it had on the record charts was spectacular with the song knocking The Beatles from the top spot and going to Number
One before the end of 1965. The Spencer Davis Group’s first LP was rushed to the shops and the band members now had to endure the side-effect of being pursued by screaming girls!
SHAWN ELLIOTT “Shame & Scandal In The Family”
Originally written in 1962 by Trinidadian calypsonian Lord Melody, “Shame And Scandal In The Family” was a hit in Europe for Puerto Rican singer Shawn Elliott Santiago. Oddly, the British satirist Lance Percival had the hit in the USA. Lord Melody never had a hit with it outside the Caribbean.
CHAD & JEREMY “Teenage Failure”
Banned from appearing on Thank Your Lucky Stars and Top Of The Pops because of the line “I’m Gonna Smash Your Face In”.
By mid-1966 Chad and Jeremy had cleaned up their act to the point where they could appear as themselves in an episode of the TV show “Batman”. The story involves Catwoman stealing their voices 8=)
Note Batman’s reference to “5000 screaming teenagers” – can’t be more than 50, surely Batman? Holy exaggeration!
THE McCOYS “Fever”
The McCoys, basically revamping their big hit “Hang On Sloopy” using the words and (vaguely) the tune of Peggy Lee’s smoking classic torch song “Fever”. Here’s the original:
BILLY STEWART “Mountain Of Love”
Co-written by Shena deMell and the legendary Sugar Pie deSanto that was Mountain Of Love by Billy Stewart, the B-side to the more commercial-sounding “Because I Love You”
THE MAMAS AND THE PAPAS “California Dreamin'”
Written by John Phillips on a frigid winter night in Manhattan when his young wife, Michelle, was homesick for Southern California, “California Dreamin’ ” is one of the all-time sunniest songs of longing.
It was first done by Phillips’ folk group the New Journeymen and later given to Barry McGuire as a thank-you after McGuire, riding high with “Eve of Destruction,” introduced the group to producer Lou Adler, who convinced the Mamas and the Papas to cut it themselves.
Due to its popularity, the song has appeared on numerous film soundtracks and as plot elements in other movies and television shows.
Notably, the song is used repeatedly in the 1994 Wong Kar-wai film Chungking Express, in which a character played by singer Faye Wong obsessively listens to it.