Beat ’66 Show #3 – The Blurb

Hello and welcome to Beat Sixty-Six, in which we play some of the sounds that were around back in the sanctified pop music year of 1966.

You can download Show #3 here

This show includes soul sounds from Fontella Bass and James Brown, R and B from Them, the Pretty Things, Chris Farlowe and the Spencer Davis Group, a film theme from Eliot Fisher,
Motown is represented by the Supremes and the Four Tops, garage sounds from the Groupies, reggae from Prince Buster, the last gasp of non-Beatles Mersey sounds appropriately enough from the Merseybeats, tracks from the Kinks and the Rolling Stones, French singer-songwriter Michel Polnareff, and Nigerian high-life superstar Cardinal Rex Jim Lawson

THE SORROWS “Take A Heart”

One of the most overlooked bands of the British Invasion, the Sorrows offered a tough brand of R&B-infused rock that recalled the Pretty Things (though not as R&B-oriented) and the Kinks (though not as pop-oriented).

Their biggest British hit, “Take a Heart,” stopped just outside the U.K. Top 20; several other fine mid-’60s singles met with either slim or a total lack of success.

With the rich, gritty vocals of Don Fardon, taut raunchy guitars, and good material (both self-penned and from outside writers), they rank as one of the better British bands of their era, and certainly among the very best never to achieve success of any kind in the U.S.

Don Fardon had a solo Top 20 hit with “Indian Reservation” in 1968

THE KINKS “Where Have All The Good Times Gone”

From late 1965 Kinks’ mainman Ray Davies’ dissatisfaction and frustations – in the wake of a nervous breakdown earlier in the year – had begun to surface in the Kinks’ records – Where Have All The Good Times Gone appeared on the B-side of the happier number “Till The End Of The Day”. This was a pattern the band would repeat throughout 1966.

THE SUPREMES “My World Is Empty Without You”

Their run of number one US hits had to come to an end somewhere but it seems a shame that it had to be with this gorgeous, poignant song of loss and woe. Diana Ross’s plaintive, vulnerable voice is perfect for this song.

The Afghan Whigs covered this magnificently in 1994, the guitar intro reminiscent of the Stones’ “Paint It,Black”

PRINCE BUSTER “Too Hot”

Too Hot by Prince Buster neither celebrating nor criticising the rude boys, just commenting.

The song was covered by The Specials on their first album

JAMES BROWN “I Got You (I Feel Good)”

James Brown’s big crossover breakthrough into the pop charts came with “Papa’s Got A Brand New Bag” followed by “I Got You(I Feel Good)” in late 1965 and it was still there come January 1966.
The B-side is this great slow burner, “I Can’t Help It (I Just Do-Do-Do)”

ELLIOTT FISHER “Theme from ‘Our Man Flint'”

Espionage was were big in the mid-sixties with James Bond and the Man from U.N.C.L.E. so inevitably there were parodies. One of the best was Our Man Flint starring James Coburn as special agent Derek Flint – and the instrumental theme tune by Elliot Fisher was arguably as good as any Bond theme. The trailer gives you some idea of where the film was coming from – check out the clearly-not-German “Dr Schneider”, always raises a smile.

ROLLING STONES “Get Off Of My Cloud”

Rolling Stones manager Andrew Loog Oldham’s influence on the band is not always appreciated – it was he who persuaded Mick Jagger and Keith Richard to write songs in the first place, even locking them in a room on more than one occasion until they came up with a hit.

After I Cant Get No Satisfaction had become their biggest and most acclaimed record so far, they could have been forgiven for resting on their laurels but according to Keef that was never an option with Oldham, who cajoled them into writing what is arguably an even better record than Satisfaction.

According to Philip Norman’s Stones biography “Shout” :
“The follow up to (Satisfaction) was an upbeat dance record with chords cribbed unashamedly from Twist And Shout and a lyric – bawled purposefully by Jagger in double time – which must represent the earliest attempt to infiltrate the British Top Ten with marijuana smoke”

The B-side is a decent enough number called “The Singer Not The Song”, slightly marred by Richard’s 12-string guitar which is out of tune throughout. Without wishing to ignite once more the whole Stones / Beatles debate, there is no way Paul McCartney would have allowed that on a Beatles record.

PRETTY THINGS “Midnight To Six Man”

The Pretty Things with Midnight To Six Man, great song, great title, the band’s tough R&B sound only enhanced by the piano of Nicky Hopkins (who similarly graced records by The Who) and the organ of Margo Lewis of Goldie & The Gingerbreads – but it still barely skimmed the Top 50.

Arkansas’ “The Culls” did a more laid back version a year later, which is still pretty good.

FONTELLA BASS “Recovery”

Fontella Bass started out as a piano accompanist.

Her singing career began in 1961 when, as piano player with Little Milton’s band, she was asked to fill in for Milton at short notice.

“Recovery” was her follow-up to the hit for which she is best remembered, “Rescue Me” – this was the rarely-heard B-Side of that record, “The Soul Of A Man” which if anything showcases her vocal talents better than either of the aforementioned tunes.

SPENCER DAVIS GROUP “Let Me Down Easy”

Some lovely restrained electric piano and guitar work on this track.

Paolo Nutini has covered this recently – I can’t say I’m his biggest fan but he has a decent stab at it imho.

THE GROUPIES “Primitive”

Is it possible to make a slow garage record that still sounds exciting?

The main riff is a note-for-note copy of Howlin’ Wolf’s “Smokestack Lightnin'” and props to them for NOT speeding it up. It works for me but others remain unconvinced.

The Cramps covered this years later.

FOUR TOPS “Just As Long As You Need Me”

A track from “The Four Tops second album” possibly named by the same person who named the Spencer Davis Group’s second album. I guess the record industry didn’t trust the public to recognise albums by name.

This was take to extremes by Chicago (whose albums I believe have always had numbers on them rather than titles, like a magazine) and of course Peter Gabriels’ first three albums were just called Peter Gabriel. Unimaginative bunch.

This is “I Like Everything About You”, another track from the album, its a little gem.

THE MERSEYBEATS “I Stand Accused”

By late 1965 The Merseybeats were ready to call it a day as most of their British Beat Boom compatriots had done, as the scene sputtered out, condemned by Motown, folk-rock and the British R&B boom to go the same way as surfing music.

The Merseybeats had one last great single in their locker though, a soulful cover of I Stand Accused (written by Jerry Butler, the original singer with The Impressions)

Isaac Hayes did an incredible eleven-minute version of this – described by the Youtube listeners as the perfect song to make love to.

Although you wouldn’t necessarily want to make sexy time with your special one to Elvis Costello’s version (2:21).

MICHEL POLNAREFF “La Poupee Qui Fait Non”

The first hit for French singer songwriter Michel Polnareff who recorded versions in German, Italian and Spanish – bet he regrets not recording an English language version cos I reckon that could have been huge in the USA and Britain, offering something slightly different …

The song was recorded in London so that he could use the best session musicians around, which in mid-sixties London meant Jimmy Page on guitar. John-Paul Jones also plays bass on this which means it could well be the first instance of future members of Led Zeppelin playing on the same record.

Michel Polnareff has completed his first album in sixteen years which will be released over the next few months, definitely worth a listen and if its any good you’ll doubtless hear tracks from it on the Beat City podcast (which does the same thing as Retro Beat ’66, only for the music of 2016)

St Etienne did a towering version of this in the nineties:

CHRIS FARLOWE “Think”

First chart placing for North Londoner Chris Farlowe on the Immediate label with “Think”, one of five Rolling Stones songs Farlowe covered – logical when you remember that Immediate was set up by the aforementioned Stones manager Andrew Loog Oldham (who incidentally is well worth a follow)

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The B-side was pretty good too.

REX LAWSON “Bete Boire”

Cardinal Rex Jim Lawson was one of the best-known highlife musicians in Nigeria during the sixties.

This track comes from a session recorded in late 1965.

This recording session was held one afternoon in August of 1965 in a Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation studio in Lagos, and if you listen carefully you can hear cars honking on the streets outside.

Listening to this all these years on, you can’t help but marvel at how good Cardinal Rex Jim Lawson and the Majors sound loose, limber and focused, paying great attention to ensemble dynamics, tight horn choruses and flowing solos.

This is another track from the same session, “Osaba Koro”

“Osaba Koro” by Cardinal Rex Jim Lawson

THEM “I Can Only Give You Everything”

Them in full-on garage mode with I Can Only Give You Everything

This is Them in full-on Animals mode with “Call My Name” from the same album

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FESTIVE FIFTY OF 1965 – Further Listening – Nos 10-1

Final blog instalment of the Festive Fifty of 1965.

You can download the two-part podcast absolutely FREE here:

Festive Fifty of 1965 Nos 50-26

Festive Fifty of 1965 Nos 25-1

10. THE NOVAS “The Crusher”

Minnesota-based (where else?!) garage band The Novas, wrote this song dedicated to wrestler Crusher Lisowski.

The song has been covered by the Cramps and the Ramones.

The Novas were more usually known as an instrumental band and the B-side of the record “Take Seven” is a decent beefed-up slab of psyche-surf.

9. THE EMERALDS “King Lonely The Blue”

Formed in Farnborough in Hampshire in 1963, the Emeralds got to make three singles, none of which got anywhere chart-wise.

After such a great track as “King Lonely The Blue” had flopped in late 1965 the band changed their name to “Wishful Thinking” and gained a fair amount of success in Denmark, but not in their home country. Check the Beatley end to this.

8. THE BEATLES “Think For Yourself”

george 1965 close

George Harrison’s “Think For Yourself”, lyrically cynical and wielding an odd sequence of chords, which, written down, look like somebody’s programmed a computer to write a song and “be a bit experimental”, somehow works wonderfully well. Paul McCartney’s double-tracked bass guitar makes it sound like something nasty lurking in the vaults, perfectly matching George’s bitter lyric.

I suppose you could definitely say it doesn’t rip anybody off though.

7. MARTHA REEVES & THE VANDELLAS “Nowhere To Run”

When the matter of Martha Reeves & The Vandellas’ finest single comes up, the debate is usually between “Dancing In The Street” and “Heatwave” but the correct answer is of course “Nowhere To Run”.

Incidentally I’d put “Jimmy Mack” at number two, an underrated track – not least by Motown who shelved it for two and a half years after it was recorded in 1964, finally becoming a hit in 1967.

6. THE FOUR TOPS “The Same Old Song”

The highest-placed Motown tune in the Festive Fifty of 1965. The Four Tops released two stone cold classics that year and to be honest if it wasn’t for the “one song per artist” rule “I Can’t Help Myself” would also have got in.

5. SIR DOUGLAS QUINTET “She’s About A Mover”

First release and the only hit for Texas band Sir Douglas Quintet whose combination of a British name and – initially – look attempted to cash in on the just-about-current British Beat Boom that still had currency for another year or so. Sonologically though, the band their Tex-Mexc origins with a garage-based 12-bar blues sound.

This was their first single and their only hit – perhaps they were seen, unfairly from the evidence of their 1969 song “Mendacino” and others, as a novelty band. Founder and mainman Doug Sahm knows how to squeeze every last drop out of two chords – TWO! – and a Farfisa organ hook.

4. THEM “Mystic Eyes”

And while we’re on the subject of two-chord songs, this has rarely been bettered.

The track drops straight in with a full head of steam.

In a song lasting two minutes and 47 seconds, the vocals don’t come in until 1:14. The first minute is played on one chord – one note in the case of the organist – under a crazed, rocking harmonica solo and only then do we drop down to the second chord. We then get a minute’s worth of vocal imagery – a signpost towards Van Morrison’s more stream-of-consciousness lyrics later in the decade – and a long fade on the same chord, leaving you feeling like someone’s kicked you up the arse then run away.

Kicking Bishop Brennan Up The Arse

3. GEORGIE FAME & THE BLUE FLAMES “Yeh Yeh”

Possibly the last ever jazz record to get to Number 1 in the UK, unless you count “Deeply Dippy” by Right Said Fred, which I am inclined not to.

Georgie Fame was so cool he could sing a ska/bluebeat version of a nursery rhyme in a cod-West Indian accent and it would STILL sound great.

Don’t believe me? Check this out.

2. BOB DYLAN “Like A Rolling Stone”

There’s been so much written about this song that I don’t really know where to begin.

Greatest Dylan song? Best Number One song ever? Perfectly defines the moment when pop became rock? Marks Dylan’s transition lyrically from clear protest anthems to more opaque, more personal yet more widely applicable songs? All of the above?

I still can’t think of any other songs regarded as important enough to have a whole book written about them – and Griel Marcus’s impassioned 200-page tome is pretty readable.

1. THE SONICS “Psycho”

From the New Yorker on the occasion of The Sonics’ 2015 comeback album “This Is The Sonics”:

Garage rock doesn’t exactly demand innovation. Songs should be crunchy and upbeat, and if they focus on girls, or cars, or girls in cars, they’ll pretty much do the trick.

Early on, the Sonics intuitively understood this—but they also played harder, faster, and with more grim aggression than anyone in Tacoma, Washington, had ever thought to play.

Morbid hits—now cult favorites—like “Psycho” and “The Witch” sounded angrier and more abrasive than any form of rock and roll that had come before.

Check out “Strychnine,”

At the time, Tacoma was the working-class Liverpool to Seattle’s swingin’ London. “My dad ran a crane on the waterfront,” the saxophonist Rob Lind said recently. “There were great musicians in Seattle, but the music was jazzy and swingy. We were blue-collar guys—we wanted to rock.”

Their formula—straight, pounding beats, bellowing or screeched vocals, pre-stomp-box distortion achieved by maxing out their amps’ volume—presaged the volatile energy of punk rock. It also built them a fan base in the Northwest “teen club” scene, where bored youth drank in the parking lots of halls with names like the Red Carpet and the Lake Hills roller rink.

But a lack of national distribution prevented them from reaching a wider audience. The Sonics never toured extensively, and hit their peak opening for groups like the Beach Boys, Jan and Dean, and the Kinks in Seattle.

But they made a lasting impression. “Strychnine” was covered magnificently by both The Fall and The Cramps. In 1994, Kurt Cobain said that Bob Bennett’s machine-gun drumming was “the most amazing drum sound I’ve ever heard.” Their songs have also been recorded by Bruce Springsteen, the Flaming Lips, and the Ramones; and the White Stripes have cited them as an influence.

During the garage-rock revival of the early noughties, the Sonics were rediscovered by a new group of listeners, and they reunited in 2007.

This week, the band releases “This Is the Sonics,” its first album of new material in nearly half a century, one of the longest intervals between recordings in rock history. The new work has the same primal intensity of its previous records, thanks in no small part to the producer Jim Diamond, who has worked with the White Stripes, the Mooney Suzuki, and a slew of other contemporary acts who owe a debt to the Sonics. Diamond recorded the band in mono, to capture the spirit of the sixties output.

Lind quit his day job, and he and the Sonics have embarked on a tour of the U.S., with a stop at Irving Plaza on April 8. With the band members in their seventies, will the live show still pack a punch? Lind chuckled. “It’s the most fun I can have without getting in trouble with the cops.”

Hope you’ve enjoyed reading these notes.

During 2016 we’ll be releasing a Retro Beat Sixty-Six podcast every week on podomatic (see the links at the top of this blog piece) together with notes similar to this, covering the sounds of fifty years ago this week – and not the standard hits you can hear elsewhere, either.

Stay tuned, hep cats!

Festive Fifty of 1965 Nos 50-26 FREE download

Festive Fifty of 1965 Nos 25-1 FREE download

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