Vinyl Memories | 001-025

001 | 11 SEPTEMBER 2020

Flick the Dust Off | The Shadows | The Shadows | Columbia SX1374 | 1961

The significance of this 1961 album is that it was the very first LP that reached my ears, when I was all but four or five years old.  It was the only record in my dad’s collection that might be described as a contemporary pop album and it was the only one to feature guitars on the cover.  Most of the records stored under the gramophone lid were Big Band or Swing records by the likes of Glenn Miller and Benny Goodman, but this was immediately different, with four musicians, Hank Marvin, Bruce Welch, Jet Harris and Tony Meehan posed in a relaxed fashion, each sporting their best Cashmere sweaters fresh from the catalogue and each trying their best to look fantastically cool, with varying degrees of success.  Recorded at Abbey Road Studios between autumn 1960 and summer 1961, the recordings were made on analogue equipment and in real time, with each track recorded on a one-track-per-day basis and with no apparent overdubs.  If the take was messed up, then it was straight on to take 2 and so on. That’s how it was in those days.  Although the LP now sounds a little dated, especially the vocal performances, some of the instrumentals still sound fresh, such as “Blue Star”, “Sleepwalk” and “Nivram”, which the observant among us will have already noticed is ‘Marvin’ spelled backwards.

Singled Out | Joe Cocker | Delta Lady | Regal Zonophone RZ3024 | 1969

At just 12 years old, my initial interest in the current pop music of the day, which included singles by such groups as Marmalade, Dave Dee Dozy Beaky Mick and Tich, Amen Corner 11 Sep 20and The Monkees, was beginning to move forward, possibly after seeing the Jimi Hendrix Experience on Top of the Pops performing “Purple Haze”.  Throughout the 1960s the Beatles seemed to be in a category of their own and remained so even after their eventual break up, which has continued through their legacy to this day.  It would have been easy for me to choose a Beatles song to kick start this series of releases.  I’ve chosen however, a song that came to me after watching a local rock band perform the song during one of their regular Sunday afternoon rehearsals at the guitarist and drummer’s dad’s house in Doncaster.  The band was called Swamp and their repertoire was made up of such rock classics as “Sunshine of Your Love”, “Badge” and a pretty faithful version of Leon Russell’s “Delta Lady”, which was most famously covered by Joe Cocker and which featured on the Sheffield singer’s self-titled second LP.  Released in 1969, the same year that Cocker made his iconic appearance at the Woodstock Festival, performing his soulful version of the Beatles’ “With a Little Help From My Friends”, complete with air guitar, star-spangled boots and tie-died granddad vest, “Delta Lady” provided this young 12 year-old with a musical start that would develop into a large collection of grown up songs, after bidding farewell to the Bubblegum of “Ha Ha Said the Clown” forever.

Fifty Years Ago | Santana | Abraxas | CBS 64087 | September 1970

By the time Carlos Santana got to Woodstock, there was half a million strong waiting to see him, though many were unaware of what they were about to witness.  Effectively launching his long career, the festival, or more accurately, the film that followed, would show Santana’s band in a very good light.  The multi-cultural outfit dazzled cinema audiences with an exubrant spectacle of split screen sweatiness and steaming guitar riffs.  Abraxas followed just over a year after their appearance at Max Yasgur’s farm and the band’s second album dazzled equally, opening with a spectacular reading of Peter Green’s “Black Magic Woman”, prefaced by some atmospheric noodling with Michael Carabello’s “Singing Winds, Crying Beasts”.  It was the sweet instrumental “Samba Pa Ti” that is perhaps the album’s most recognised highlight, a gorgeous guitar piece penned by the band’s charismatic leader.  Fifty years on and the tunes have not dated one bit.

002 | 18 SEPTEMBER 2020

Flick the Dust Off | The Jimi Hendrix Experience | Smash Hits | Polydor ACB 00219 | 1968

If The Shadows was the first LP I heard, then Smash Hits was the first LP I ever bought with my own pocket money (£1), second hand from an older boy down the street, who had allegedly ‘moved on’ from such things.  I’m in my sixties now and I still haven’t moved on from it.  Up to this point, my record collection had been made up of exclusively 45rpm singles, some of which resided in a plastic wallet which I referred to as an ‘album’, others were kept in what I described as ‘the little orange box’.  This was a most exciting progression, owning a real long playing gramophone record that crackled with static when removed from its inner sleeve.  I distinctly remember placing the cover on the shelf, then standing back to admire my LP collection (of one), eagerly anticipating the next addition, which would follow a week later, presumably after being paid for shoving newspapers in letterboxes around the village.  Favourite songs “The Wind Cries Mary”, “Foxy Lady” and “Purple Haze”.

Singled Out | Thunderclap Newman | Something in the Air | Track Records 604031 | 1969

If there was one record that captured the spirit of 1969, then it was Thunderclap Newman’s “Something in the Air”.  The single was played constantly on the radio at the time, despite it only spending three weeks at the top of the charts.  Although jazz pianist Andy ‘Thunderclap’ Newman played his familiar honky tonk piano on the single, it was drummer Speedy Keen (incorrectly spelled Keene on the label) who wrote the song and provided it with his distinctive vocal, augmented by Jimmy McCulloch on guitar, who went on to play with Paul McCartney’s Wings in the 1970s.  The single, which was produced by The Who’s Pete Townshend who also plays bass, became something of a one-hit wonder for the band and is still played frequently on the radio to this day.  The song was also famously used in a scene in the Peter Sellers/Ringo Starr film The Magic Christian, where city gents were invited to wade through a vat by the Thames, containing 100 gallons of blood, 200 gallons of urine and 500 cubic feet of animal manure, in search of ‘free money’.  

Fifty Years Ago | Neil Young | After the Goldrush | Reprise Records RS 6383 | September 1970

The third solo album by Canadian singer songwriter Neil Young, was released almost simultaneously with albums by the other three members of his then band, David Crosby, Stephen Stills and Graham Nash, yet this LP is probably the most memorable.  Crosby Stills Nash and Young had just scored a worldwide hit with the album Deja Vu and had made a successful appearance at the Woodstock Festival the year before.  The album was written and recorded in just three weeks after a period of writer’s block and was hugely influenced by a screenplay Young had recently read written by the actor Dean Stockwell for a potential film project to be directed by Dennis Hopper.  Although the film was never made, Young decided to use these songs on the album his record company was urging him to produce, which also included the one cover, Don Gibson’s country crooner “Oh Lonesome Me”.  Had the movie been made, we might have had a clearer idea of the actual meaning of the title song.  Years later, we are still puzzled by the lyrics of the song, although the song as a whole, which is essentially a couple of minutes of Young’s inimitable voice and piano accompaniment, lifted towards the end by Bill Peterson’s sorrowful flugelhorn, is possibly as good as it gets.

003 | 25 SEPTEMBER 2020

Flick the Dust Off | The Roches | The Roches | Warner Brothers K56683 | 1979

As the New Jersey siblings point out in their autobiographical opener “We”, this trio was first of all a duo comprising elder sisters Maggie and Terre, who established themselves a good ten years before younger sister Suzzy joined to record this, their debut LP as a trio.  Recorded at the Hit Factory in New York City, with King Crimson’s Robert Fripp producing and also contributing some of his idiosyncratic trademark guitar licks, the LP features ten songs that showcase the group’s faultless sibling harmonies, a sound I first heard sometime in the early 1980s.  Slightly quirky, all ten original songs demonstrate the trio’s unique vocal sound, which has never dated.  I get the same rush today, midway through “Hammond Song” as I did back in 1981.  It’s difficult to choose a favourite track, though I would be happy for either “Hammond Song”, “Quitting Time” or “Runs in the Family” to be played at my funeral, if that’s not too morbid, or even “Mr Sellack”, depending upon my mood at the time.

Singled Out | Jr Walker and the All Stars | Sweet Soul | Tamla Motown TMG637 | 1967

Sweet Soul is the B side to “Come See About Me” by Jr Walker and the All Stars, released in 1968 on the Tamla Motown label.  Not to be mistaken for Sweet Soul Music by Arthur Conley, this short instrumental was one of the staple records played at the Top Rank on Silver Street in Doncaster during their thriving soul and Motown nights at the club and features Walker’s distinctive wailing tenor sax.  I can’t listen to the record without it transporting me back to my youth in the late 1960s and early 1970s, the only long-haired boy in the club wearing all the current clobber, from the bottom up: brown brogues, ankle socks, Levis Sta-Prest strides, Ben Sherman gingham shirt and v-neck green sweater with the obligatory Yorkshire rose badge sewn on.

Fifty Years Ago | Mott the Hoople | Mad Shadows | Island Records ILPS 9119 | September 1970

Mott the Hoople’s ‘difficult’ second LP turned out to be possibly the band’s best album in retrospect.  Legend has it that its original title was Sticky Fingers but messers Jagger and Richards beat them to it with their own album release, which the Rolling Stones were working on in the studio next door.  Mad Shadows was their second choice of title, a term borrowed from a poem by Baudelaire, which was perfectly matched by the monochrome artwork.  Like most the albums that were discovered around this time, it was through the sampler format that I first became aware of both the album and the band, in this case the double Island compilation Bumpers.  When I saw the band at the Doncaster Top Rank in the early 1970s, the band were currently riding high on the success of “All the Young Dudes” and I distinctly recall Ian Hunter’s on-stage proclamation – ‘There’s only two rock and roll bands in the world, the Rolling Stones and us!’, which was probably not the case.  However, from the packed audience I was moved to shout out for “Thunderbuck Ram”, the opening song from this album, to which an older fan who was standing next to me leaned over and said “I don’t think they’ll be doing that one anymore”.  The band had already adopted all the traits of a Glam Rock band and the Mad Shadows era had sadly passed.

004 | 2 OCTOBER 2020

Flick the Dust Off | Kate and Anna McGarrigle | Kate and Anna McGarrigle | Warner Brothers K56218 | 1976

When we first discover voices as good as these, we should really have taken note of where we were and what we were doing, but for the life of me I can’t remember at all.  It might have been on the Old Grey Whistle Test back in the mid 1970s or on John Peel show, but there again it could’ve been while lying semi-conscious in a dry bath after a late night party in an attic flat along Broxholme Lane in Doncaster, a usual pursuit after a night at The Blue Bell on Baxtergate.  It was most probably as a result of being obsessed with all things Loudon Wainwright III, who was at the time married to Kate, but I’m still not entirely sure.  Heady daze indeed.  What I do know, is that a fair old shiver went sailing up my spine when I first heard “(Talk to Me Of) Mendocino”, “Heart Like a Wheel” and the highly infectious “Complainte Pour Ste-Catherine”, delivered in French, all of which are featured on this superb LP.  The last time I saw Kate and Anna was at the Cambridge Folk Festival in the summer of 1995, shortly after the two sisters lost their mum.  It was an emotional affair to say the least as they held back the tears during their set.  We then lost Kate in 2010, the mother of both Rufus and Martha, both recording artists in their own right.  I doubt we’ll ever hear anything quite as special as these two voices again.

Singled Out: | Creedence Clearwater Revival | Up Around the Bend | Liberty LBF15354 | 1970

I don’t know why the American rock and roll band Creedence Clearwater Revival meant so much to me in the late 1960s while I was still at school, but my little orange cuboid singles box had more CCR singles in it than any other artist at the time, each on the familiar vivid blue Liberty label. Written by John Fogerty, “Up Around the Bend” has a memorable high-pitched guitar riff, which permeates throughout the three-minute song and goes hand in glove with Fogerty’s trademark sneering vocals. The lyrics seem to suggest a ‘calling on’ song, as Fogerty beckons the listener to join him at the end of the highway, in the woods rather than the city, another early 1970s song that suggests the ‘back to the garden’ myth. The song was also included on the band’s fourth studio LP Cosmo’s Factory as did the flip side “Run through the Jungle”. As with many bands of the era, it didn’t end well.

Fifty Years Ago | Led Zeppelin | Led Zeppelin III | Atlantic 2401 002 | October 1970

Led Zeppelin II was the second LP that I ever bought, joining Jimi Hendrix Smash Hits in my steadily growing collection.  For a period it became my favourite LP and marked the beginning of a long standing love of music.  I was aware there was a predecessor, simply because of the number II in the title.  The eagerly anticipated untitled fourth album was just around the corner.  Sandwiched in between though was the band’s curious third LP, which few fans at the time understood.  The hard driving rock of “Whole Lotta Love” and “Heartbreaker” had been replaced by folk influenced acoustics, even name checking Roy Harper in one of the songs.  Jimmy Page had borrowed from Bert Jansch on their first album and was at it again on this LP too, while Robert Plant supplied some sensitive childhood memories in such songs as “That’s the Way”.  Perhaps the most notable aspect of Led Zeppelin III though is the artwork, something to play with as you listened.

005 | 9 OCTOBER 2020

Flick the Dust Off | Bert Jansch | Bert Jansch | Transatlantic TRA125 | 1965

During my last couple of years at High School, I was taught by a young art teacher who could’ve been described at the time as ‘relatively hip’ and who would often bring records into class by such obscure guitar players as the Reverend Gary Davis and Stefan Grossman, all of which were, to my ears at any rate, a marked improvement on “Love Grows Where My Rosemary Grows” and “Wandrin’ Star”.  On one such occasion, this teacher brought in the debut LP by a then relatively obscure Scots guitar player, whose name I couldn’t pronounce, but whose guitar playing made me sit up and take note.  We were told to stop working, put our pencils down and gather around the Dansette, whereupon he lifted the arm and hovered the needle over the last track on side one, asking us to concentrate on the lyrics.  At first, I thought “Needle of Death” was a cautionary tale for Singer sewing machine users, but it then dawned on me that our teacher was delivering a warning about the growing use of heroin in the town.  Bert Jansch entered my world in the art class that afternoon and he has remained there for fifty years and counting.  Bert always remained a distant figure, despite his later records becoming ‘must have’ additions to my collection, and he was perhaps the only musician I was too much in awe of to go up to on the numerous occasions when I saw him play live.  I did say “hi” to him sometime in the 1980s as we passed on the steps of the Leeds Astoria, but he just kept on walking down as I walked up.  Memorable songs on Bert Jansch include “Strolling Down the Highway”, “Running for Home”, “Needle of Death” and “Angie”, a tune we all had to learn before we could call ourselves guitar players.  It’s all here, it’s all you need.  Bert is also the only musician whose grave I visited to pay my respects.  I talked to him on that occasion.  I’m not the only one who misses him.

Singled Out | Jimi Hendrix Experience | Voodoo Chile | Track 2095 001 | 1968

I remember marching up to the counter at Foxes Records in the Arndale Centre in Doncaster with six shillings in my hand, to almost demand that they hand over the latest single release by the Jimi Hendrix Experience just a short time after the death of the guitarist in a London flat. The single, which might be categorised as an EP, the record having two tracks on the B side, the Billy Roberts/Dino Valenti/Whoever song “Hey Joe” and Bob Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower”, was released as a tribute to the late musician and was one of the first records to be added to my growing collection of singles that ventured outside the confines of what could be described as pop music, stepping into full blown rock territory. It was also one of the first records of mine that dad just couldn’t cope with and this alone made me love it even more.

Fifty Years Ago | Pink Floyd | Atom Heart Mother | Harvest SHVL781 | October 1970

‘I know, let’s put the back end of a cow on the cover’ suggested the guys at Hipgnosis for Pink Floyd’s fifth studio album back in 1970.  Bizarrely, the boys agreed and fifty years later, the cover is something of an icon, who’da thought?  If the notion of featuring a Holstein-Friesian cow standing in a field on the front cover, plus three on the reverse, then the idea of not even mentioning the band’s name at all would have been thought of as somewhat radical at the time.  Radical, could also describe the music, a six-part concept piece being at the heart of the release, or perhaps the atom heart to be precise.  A collaboration with experimental composer and musician Ron Geesin, the title track, which takes up the entire first side, has moments that would be echoed on Floyd’s masterpiece Meddle a year later, though side two is perhaps another example of credit sharing, already explored in the previous double album set Ummagumma the year before.  Concluding with the ludicrous “Alan’s Psychedelic Breakfast”, which must have been a blast in the band’s live set, you get the feeling that the band are beginning to struggle for ideas, ideas that would soon become bountiful.

006 | 16 OCTOBER 2020

Flick the Dust Off | John Renbourn | John Renbourn | Transatlantic TRA135 | 1966

The first thing that attracted me to John Renbourn’s debut solo LP was the cover shot, which shows the folk troubadour leaning against a disused site beneath an officious Greater London Council notice instructing visitors to report to the general foreman before entering.  Several decades later I would bump into John standing in a similar manner on a street in York, this time with his guitar in its case as he waited for his son to lock the car up.  On this occasion, he didn’t have a fag in his mouth.  I’m not sure when I first became aware of him, possibly when I first heard the Basket of Light record.  Recorded in 1965, the LP showcases many of the diverse styles the guitarist subsequently became noted for, including baroque folk, blues and spirituals.  My copy is now adorned with his familiar signature and obligatory ‘star’ motif, which I got him to do a good few decades after this album’s initial release.  Unlike his noted collaborator Bert Jansch, I never had any reservations about going up to him for a chat, something I did on one or two occasions, where I found him to be one of the most approachable and kind musicians I’ve ever had the privilege to meet.  When I listen to such songs and instrumentals as “Judy”, “Beth’s Blues” and “John Henry”, I always seem to return to a comfortable time, surrounded by pace posters, impractical coloured light bulbs in every socket and the aroma of several joss sticks burning simultaneously, with mum downstairs fixing dinner.

Singled Out | Bob and Marcia | Young, Gifted and Black | Harry J HJ6605 | 1970

If you don’t remember this thoroughly engaging reggae version of Nina Simone’s gospel-tinged song “To Be Young Gifted and Black” released back in 1970, then you were simply not there, that’s for sure.  It was played almost relentlessly on the radio, reaching number 5 in the UK charts in the March of that year and was a hit on both the radio and on dance floors up and down the country.  Remember, a number 1 in 2021 is but a fraction of the sales of a number 5 in 1970.  It begins with a short gentle piano run up, followed by three simple words ‘young, gifted and black’ and then that killer single bass note, but what a note it is.  It sends a warm shiver every time I hear it.  Bob and Marcia, the Jamaican duo Bob Andy and Marcia Griffiths, had already bowed out of the music business by the middle of the decade and we didn’t hear much of them subsequently, but like most of the singles in my little orange box, it only takes a couple of seconds after the needle hits the groove, to be transported right back there as if by magic.  Certain fragrances do this and certain tastes of course, but records do it best of all, especially that divine bass note.  I get an inexplicable feeling of complete joy upon each hearing, even fifty years on.

Fifty Years Ago | Frank Zappa | Chunga’s Revenge | Bizarre 2030 | October 1970

Frank Zappa’s third solo album was released in October, 1970, and was the first to feature the Phlorescent Leech and Eddie, otherwise Mark Volman and Howard Kaylan of The Turtles fame, who make their appearance two tracks in, on the “Road Ladies” after a reasonably satisfying opener, “Transylvania Boogie”, which at even five minutes long seemed too short.  The bluesy “Road Ladies” sounds live enough, with some blistering blues licks and vocals shared between Zappa and Flo and Eddie.  Whereas “Road Ladies” sounds live, “The Nancy and Mary Music” is in fact a live performance, recorded at Tyrone Guthrie Theatre in Minneapolis, and features some of Zappa’s most inventive guitar playing thus far, interspersed with some of Flo and Eddie’s highly irritating vocal shenanigans.  You tend to want them to just shut the fuck up.  “Would You Go All the Way” indicates the direction Zappa’s music was heading at the time, which would soon morph from the brilliant satire of The Mothers to bawdy nonesense of Flo and Eddie.  There are some fine moments here though, not least the title track, which features Zappa at his best, with some sneering sax wah-wah courtesy of Ian Underwood.  Wrapped in a vivid red cover with Zappa either screaming or yawning (I’m undecided), Chunga’s Revenge demonstrates a change in direction from Zappa’s earlier Mothers albums and his two previous solo albums Lumpy Gravy (1967) and Hot Rats (1969).   

007 | 23 OCTOBER 2020

Flick the Dust Off | Amazing Blondel | England | Island ILPS9205 | 1972

I first became aware of the Amazing Blondel’s England LP when I saw it in the window of Ken’s Swap Shop on St Sepulchre Gate in Doncaster back in 1972 and I decided there and then that it would be mine.  Climbing over the junk shop debris, while simultaneously holding my breath (who says men can’t multitask?), I troubled Ken to negotiate the hazardous terrain of the window area in order to salvage this LP from the sun’s rays.  I held it close as I offered him a one pound note in exchange.  I then ran home, lifted the lid of my Fidelity twin speaker affair, placed the needle on the grooves, laid back on my bed and read every single word on the gate fold sleeve, another world.  As a kid, I always lamented never having had the opportunity to see the trio live back in the early 1970s, but was pleased as punch when the original trio reformed in the late 1990s to do a few gigs.  I recall sitting in a pub in Cottingham awaiting the arrival of John Gladwin, Eddie Baird and Terry Wincott, who I only knew through the photographs on their LP covers at home.  I wondered if I would still recognise them; the hair should have surely gone by now I reasoned.  When they walked through the door and took to their respective chairs, I not only recognised them, I felt I already knew them.  I saw the band three times during that period with my son, who had grown up with their music and had himself become a fan, possibly due to their albums being played most Sunday mornings since his birth.  The last time I saw the band was in October 1998 and I doubt I’ll ever see them again, which is a shame.  This album features such notables as “Dolor Dulcis (Sweet Sorrow)”, “A Spring Air” and the “The Paintings” suite.  They are my favourite band, despite having been lumbered with the reputation of being the worst band ever to play at Glastonbury, but there again, they do have a crumhorn in their musical arsenal, so it probably serves them right.

Singled Out | The Kinks | Waterloo Sunset | Pye 7N 17321 | 1967

As a ten year-old, I was fortunate enough to spend a swinging week in Swinging London with my eleven year-old school pals in the summer of 1968.  These were the days long before the Sony Walkman, yet I distinctly remember hearing pop songs throughout the week, possibly the leakage of sounds coming from the boutiques along Carnaby Street, or from transistor radios of market stall holders along Pettycoat Lane or maybe it’s possible that one of us had a portable radio with us, I’m not quite sure.  I spent the week singing, whistling or humming some of these songs to myself as we walked along the streets of London, possibly in a feeble attempt to impress one of my female class mates; a fat lot of good that did!  The song I remember most of all from this time was the Kinks’ “Waterloo Sunset”, which illustrates this period so well.  The Ray Davies song not only evokes this particular period, it also conjures up visions of the very heart of the city, with its dirty old river, its taxi lights shining at dusk and its chilly chilly evening time, while Terry and Julie keep a tight hold of one another as they cross Waterloo Bridge, possibly imagining their lives ahead.  There’s an entire novel in these three verses and gorgeous chorus, possibly the best single ever.

Fifty Years Ago | Genesis | Trespass | Charisma CAS 1020 | October 1970

After something of a false start under the supervision of fellow public school luminary Jonathan King, the band Genesis entered London’s Trident Studios in 1970 to record what effectively became the band’s first proper album.  The artwork itself pointed very much in the direction the band were to eventually go in the early 1970s as well as the music, which was written by the band as a whole.  Trespass was however to be the swansong for both guitarist Anthony Phillips and drummer John Mayhew, who would be replaced by Steve Hackett and Phil Collins respectively.  In truth, Genesis didn’t become an obsession until the arrival of Foxtrot a couple of years later, which lingered until The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway in 1974, before evaporating with the departure of charismatic frontman Peter Gabriel around the same time.  As in most cases though, I ventured backwards over the band’s catalogue to discover the Trespass and Nursery Crime albums a little after discovering Foxtrot, both of which occasionally re-visit the turntable even today.  Notable tracks “Stagnation”, “Visions of Angels” and “The Knife”.

008 | 30 OCTOBER 2020

Flick the Dust Off | Incredible String Band | The Hangman’s Beautiful Daughter | Elektra EKS74021 | 1968

Then there was the curious look that dad would often give me as we passed on the stairs, the sort of look that suggested I might actually not be the produce of his loins.  This was probably after hearing the vague leakage of Mike Heron singing “Mercy I Cry City” or “A Very Cellular Song”, or Robin Williamson wishing he was a “Witches Hat”, filtering out through the cracks between the door of my bedroom only to invade his space.  That same look would continue through tea time as he passed the salt over or as he peered from behind his evening newspaper, carefully scrutinising me as he checked the score draws, wondering if I might possibly have come from Venus.  Why wasn’t his Shadows LP good enough for me anymore?  The Incredible String Band’s mighty fine The Hangman’s Beautiful Daughter still goes around on the turntable every now and again, only this time the strange looks come from my wife, as Robin Williamson sings “Earth water fire and air, met together in a garden fair, put in a basket bound with skin, if you answer this riddle, if you answer this riddle, you’ll never begin”.  I knew I should have married someone more like Licorice, had kids like that, had a dog like that and lived somewhere deep in a forest, like that!

Singled Out | Scott McKenzie | San Francisco | CBS 2816 | 1967

In the so-called Summer of Love, I was ten years old and pretty much consumed with the pop music of the era, from The Beatles and The Rolling Stones to their American counterparts, such bands as The Turtles and The Loving Spoonful, not to mention The Monkees.  I still recall sitting on a hill in the misty Yorkshire Dales on a camping trip with my fellow cub scouts, sitting in a circle around Akela, who sang “San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair)” accompanying herself on an Spanish guitar with a daisy chain crown atop her head.  The appeal was infectious, especially to a ten-year old away from home, creating a distraction that would last for the rest of the decade and probably well into the next.  Records and girls were inextricably linked.  The following year, when I made my first visit to London with school, I distinctly remember hanging around Piccadilly Circus watching hippies gather, while whistling – possibly the most irritating pursuit of my childhood – Scott McKenzie’s most famous song, which was written for him by the Mamas and Papas’ leader John Phillips.  I had no idea where San Francisco was but I knew I wanted to go there with or without flowers in my hair.

Fifty Years Ago | Arlo Guthrie | Washington County | Reprise RSLP 6411 | October 1970

Arlo Guthrie appears to be in the process of sharpening an axe on the cover of his third solo album, Washington County, for what purpose, one can only guess.  Once again, Guthrie surrounds himself with the cream of session players here, including Ry Cooder, Clarence White, Doug Dillard and Richie Haywood, each helping to create an eclectic sounding album, with some fine performances throughout. Predominently self-penned, Guthrie includes one of his dad’s songs “Lay Down Little Doggies” (complete with a count in that goes up to five) and Bob Dylan’s sing-a-long “Percy’s Song”.  One imagines that by October 1970, Guthrie would have been sick up to the back teeth of reciting the “Alice’s Restaurant Massacree” night after night and Washington Country offers some fine songs to fill out the set, such as “Gabriel’s Mother’s Hiway Ballad #16 Blues” and “If You Would Just Drop By”, which one could imagine more suited to Closing Time period Tom Waits.

009 | 6 NOVEMBER 2020

Flick the Dust Off | Various Artists | Woodstock Original Soundtrack | Atlantic K60001 | 1970

The Woodstock Festival, or to give it its official title, ‘The Woodstock Music and Arts Fair presents An Aquarian Exposition in White Lake NY’, left a lasting impression on me, despite the fact that I wasn’t there.  Too young and too far away is my excuse, being just twelve and a half and White Lake being three and a half thousand miles away.  I experienced the festival as most of us did through the film, which was released a year after the event and which I saw sometime later in the 1970s, after queuing up at the now demolished Gaumont Theatre on the crossroads of Hallgate and Thorne Road in Doncaster.  I first heard the triple disc soundtrack album in 1973 after borrowing it from a fan of The Who who I worked with and immediately took to the music, the atmosphere and the legendary announcements.  In the subsequent weeks, months and years, I would seek out the music of just about every one of the bands and musicians featured on these six sides, including CSNY, Santana, Arlo Guthrie, Ten Years After, Jefferson Airplane and Country Joe and the Fish.  Hendrix, Cocker, Canned Heat and The Who, I was already acquainted with.  Despite Guthrie’s embarrassingly stoned announcements, that there would be “about a million and a half people here by tonight”, which actually turned out to be a third of that estimate, together with the fact that “New York State Thruway is closed man, can you dig it?”, there was an unprecedented gathering of people who turned out for the stormy weekend, which began on Friday 15 August, 1969 with Richie Havens and concluded on the morning of Monday 18 August, with Jimi Hendrix, the event running over by a good eleven hours.  The three-panel centre spread photo taken by Jim Marshall shows the extent of the crowd, which is still impressive today.  As a live LP, the sound is a little dodgy in places, due to various bits of buzzing and bleeping, probably caused by the damp weather, but as a historical record of probably the most famous pop festival ever, it’s an impressive statement.  Great moments include CSNY’s “Suite Judy Blue Eyes”, Joe Cocker’s “With a Little Help From My Friends” and Hendrix’s “Star Spangled Banner”.  Did I mention Sha Na Na?  Thought not.

Singled Out | Ten Years After | Love Like a Man | Deram DM299 | 1970

In 1970, Ten Years After was a band still recovering from the landmark event of the previous year in upstate New York, in fact some believe the band never actually recovered from Woodstock at all.  The band’s drummer Rick Lee told me some years later that the band had already begun to implode well before their helicopter landed on the hillside on Max Yasgur’s farm just outside Bethel in upstate New York, but we tend to go with the myth with these things.  The song that first attracted me to this British blues band led by Alvin Lee was “Love Like a Man”, with its instantly memorable guitar riff, which leaned more towards the rock music of the day than the band’s previous twelve bar blues repertoire.  The single was also notable for featuring a live version of the song on the flip side (shown here), recorded at the Fillmore East and because of the length, was to be played at 33.1/3, which provided much fun when selected to play on the jukebox at the Silver Link, our regular haunt back in the day.

Fifty Years Ago | Derek and the Dominoes | Layla and Other Assorted Love Stories | Polydor 2625 005 | November 1970

There’s little doubt that this double album set is a love letter to Patti Harrison, the object of Eric Clapton’s affections, despite it being pretty much unrequited at the time.  The title song most clearly demonstrates a pleading Clapton, which is now remembered as one of his finest performances, which takes up a good seven minutes of the final side.  Derek and the Dominoes was a short-lived outfit, which was nothing new in the cycle of Clapton’s career, who had already been in five bands in just seven years, The Yardbirds, Bluesbreakers, Cream, Blind Faith and Delaney and Bonnie before forming this outfit with Bobby Whitlock, Jim Gordon, Carl Radle and Duane Allman.  Although the title track continues to stand as an undisputed rock classic, the album also features other highlights that any self respecting rock musician would be proud to be part of, “Bell Bottom Blues” for certain, as well as one or two covers and blues standards, notable their take on the Hendrix “Little Wing”, “Key to the Highway” and “Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out”.   

010 | 13 NOVEMBER 2020

Flick the Dust Off | Third Ear Band | Alchemy | Harvest SHVL 756 | 1969

At a time when such bands as Pink Floyd, Deep Purple and The Edgar Broughton Band were furnishing EMI’s specially created Harvest label with music for the growing progressive rock market, the label was also unafraid to take one or two risks, introducing such outfits as The Battered Ornaments, Tea and Symphony, Quatermass and from the folk community, Shirley and Dolly Collins and Roy Harper, not to mention the highly uncertain output of a solo Syd Barrett.  Perhaps the most unusual of all the outfits on the Harvest roster was the Third Ear Band, whose trance-like acoustic medieavel music was immediately at odds with everything else that was going on at the time.  The instruments alone would bring on a nose bleed to those very much accustomed to the more electric sounds of Ummagumma, Deep Purple in Rock and Wasa Wasa for instance, with the oboe, recorder, cello, violin and hand drums being the order of a Third Ear Band day.  I picked up a second hand copy of this album shortly after its original release in 1969, which I found languishing in the window of Ken’s Swap Shop on St Sepulchre Gate West in Doncaster, which could have been an unwanted gift or a Michael Chapman fan’s error of judgement.  ‘But it’s on the Harvest label?’  During their tenure as a regular outfit on the underground scene, the band would garner some wider attention after appearing at a series of Hyde Park concerts, playing on the same bills as The Rolling Stones, Blind Faith and King Crimson.  The band would find further success, albeit limited, when they scored the soundtrack to Roman Polanski’s blood curdling Macbeth in 1971, who actually also appeared in the film as minstrels in the gallery.  Jethro Tull were probably busy.  It was the cover artwork that drew my initial attention, which seemed to fit in with my then obsession with Dennis Wheatley novels and morbid curiosity of all things Aleister Crowley, something I was pleased to grow out of by the time I reached seventeen.  “Stone Circle” is probably my favourite track from this completely unusual instrumental album. 

Singled Out | Three Dog Night | Mama Told Me Not to Come | Stateside SS8052 | 1970

The first time I became aware of Randy Newman was probably when he released “Short People” as a single, from his Little Criminals album back in 1977, which I thought he’d written especially for me.  His songs however, I knew well before through cover versions without realising they were actually Newman songs. These included “Simon Smith and the Amazing Dancing Bear” by Alan Price, “Just One Smile” by Gene Pitney and notably, “Mama Told Me Not To Come” by Three Dog Night.  In 1970, there were dozens of records that seemed to frame the era perfectly, most of which I would first hear on the radio, then go out and buy, then anally number and cross reference, before filing them away in the legendary little orange box, which I kept in close proximity to my newly acquired Fidelity Music Master twin speaker stereo system.  Three Dog Night’s cover of this song, which featured Cory Wells’ almost panic-ridden voice and the future disco queen Donna Summer on backing vocals, was released on the orange Stateside record label and became a much played record at the time, a song that seemed to sum up how I felt about the late night parties I was attending at the time, when I really should’ve been practicing my algebra.

Fifty Years Ago | Cat Stevens | Tea for the Tillerman | Island ILPS 9135 | November 1970

By the time the fourth studio album by Cat Stevens came along, the singer appeared to make giant strides backwards in terms of the pop charts, with “Matthew and Son”, “First Cut is the Deepest” and “Lady D’Arbanville” left somewhere back there. Tea for the Tillerman is perhaps the epitome of the bedsit music of the early 1970s, with such songs as “Where Do the Children Play”, “Hard Headed Woman” and “Father and Son” each looking inward.  One of the album’s best remembered song “Wild World” provided a surprise hit for the reggae giant Jimmy Cliff, while “Father and Son” made no serious effort to reach very high in the UK charts.  Cat Stevens had becme an album artist, his albums become must have items throughout the 1970s.  Decorated with Stevens’ own artwork, Tea for the Tillerman paved the way in terms of chart success for the next foutr albums Teaser and the Firecat (1971), Catch Bull at Four (1972), Foreigner (1973) and Buddah and the Chocolate Box (1974) before the next, Numbers, failed to chart at all.   Perhaps Tea for the Tillerman is best remembered for its minute long closing title track, which became the theme tune for the Ricky Gervais comedy series Extras in 2005.

011 | 20 NOVEMBER 2020

Flick the Dust Off | David Crosby | If I Could Only Remember My Name | Atlantic K40320 | 1971

I found my copy of David Crosby’s debut solo LP If Only I Could Remember My Name languishing in a cardboard box at a garage sale just outside Tampa on Groundhog Day 1996, an album first released in the wake of the hugely popular Déjà Vu by his then band, Crosby Stills Nash and Young.  In the early 1970s those four musicians released solo albums almost simultaneously, each inviting various prominent musicians along for the ride.  In Crosby’s case, Joni Mitchell is there, along with members of the Grateful Dead, Santana and Jefferson Airplane.  In places the album echoes some of the sonic styling of Déjà vu, with a strong acoustic feel, yet the LP received less than favourable reviews at the time of release in 1971, which was possibly due to Crosby’s overt hippy sensibilities.  I have time for David Crosby, warts and all.  I know he has his faults, that he is enormously opinionated and can be unreliable and he can even manage to upset Graham Nash, so much so, the chummy Blackpool-born Hollie has vowed never to speak to him ever again, the very man who once stood by Cros through thick and thin, which beggars the question, what on earth could he possibly have done to worry the likes of Graham Nash?  Crosby continues to make me smile for some reason and this album remains my favourite of the CSNY related solo albums and is still played regularly, almost fifty years on.  “Music is Love”, “Cowboy Movie” and “Laughing” are all great songs, in fact they all are.

Singled Out | Fleetwood Mac | Oh Well Parts I and II | Reprise RS27000 | 1969

In the same year that saw the release of the first Led Zeppelin LP, the Woodstock Festival and the Manson Family slayings in Beverley Hills, 1969 also saw some very definite changes in music, with the beginnings of what we now think of as Heavy Metal.  When I first heard Fleetwood Mac’s “Oh Well Part I”, I was instantly taken by the interplay between acoustic and electric guitars, with its memorable riff and isolated unaccompanied verses, courtesy of the song’s author Peter Green.  The A side of the single was played a lot during the early 1970s, clearly audible from at least three bedrooms in the street where I lived, although not so much the less fussy B side, which leaned far more towards Classical Spanish guitar and featuring Sandra Elsdon on recorder.  I always remember my pal Malc, home on leave from serving in the army in Germany, sitting on the little wall by the front door, playing the opening riff on my acoustic guitar.  “Show me that again” I demanded.  

Fifty Years Ago | Spirit | Twelve Dreams Of Dr. Sardonicus | Epic 64191 | November 1970

 I’m not quite sure when I first heard Spirit’s fourth album release Twelve Dreams of Dr Sardonicus, certainly some time in the early 1970s and no doubt during my ‘psychedelia’ period.  I would have first of all been attracted to the sleeve no doubt, a dark psychedelic and distorted portrait of the band attired in all manner of weirdness, quite possibly as spaced out as you could get, even by 1970s standards.  Although popular at the time, Spirit never achieved the sort of popularity of such contemporary rivals as Jefferson Airplane or the Grateful Dead and have pretty much maintained cult status, until more recently when it was alleged that guitarist Randy Wolfe’s instrumental “Taurus”, from an earlier Spirit album, was plagierised by Jimmy Page in the opening bars of Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven”.  Signs in guitar shops now read “No ‘Taurus’ ! denied!”

012 | 27 NOVEMBER 2020

Flick the Dust Off | Gene Clark | No Other | Asylum 7E-1016 | 1974

There’s a picture on the back of his fourth solo studio LP No Other, which looks like Gene Clark could have joined Abba or Bucks Fizz (or both), which doesn’t so much worry me, but makes me wonder if this could possibly be the same tall brooding dude who banged a tambourine on the Byrds debut hit nine years earlier.  Released in 1974 on David Geffen’s Asylum label, No Other was poorly received both critically and commercially and seemed to be doomed from the start, the label even refusing to promote it at the time, causing a major rift in relations between the former Byrds songwriter and the label, at one point leading to a skirmish involving fisticuffs in an LA restaurant, which Geffen denies ever having happened.  The fact that the recording went fantastically over budget costing upwards of $100,000 and contained nothing that could be considered ‘hit’ material, would certainly have impressed the studio boss little and after the album’s release, Clark was definitely off the label.  Nevertheless, Gene Clark himself always considered the album his masterpiece and maintained this belief until his death in 1991.  Conceived whilst looking out of the window of a friend’s Mendocino home, which overlooked the Pacific Ocean, the songs have an almost mystical edge, songs such as “Life’s Greatest Fool”, “From a Silver Phial” and “Strength of Strings” not to mention the title song, which is probably why the album has endured to this day and is currently undergoing scrutiny by an entirely new audience of musicians.

Singled Out | Curved Air | Back Street Luv | Warner Brothers K16092 | 1971

In 1971 Prog Rock had taken hold and just about anything with a cleverly designed LP sleeve was filed in record shops under that banner, whether it was Prog or not.  Prog was pretty much confined to the long playing record, yet record companies still insisted that there was chart potential in the genre.  All I seem to remember about Curved Air on the two or three times I saw them during the early days, was Darryl Way’s extended violin solos, with or without cannons, while the velvet and satin-clad Goddess known as Sonja Kristina swayed across the stage.  Curved Air’s “Back Street Luv” was every bit as Prog as anything else they recorded at the time but the song definitely had a catchy sing-a-long chorus and was just long enough to keep the daytime radio DJs from having a nose bleed.  The single still holds the distinction of being the only record to hit number 4 in the hit parade that starts with an ascending stereophonic fart.  I did get to chat to Sonja Kristina a few years later, the interview of which can be found in our ‘Interviews’ section.

Fifty Years Ago | Curved Air | Air Conditioning | Warner Bros WSX3012 | November 1970

Famous at the time for being an early example of a picture disc, Air Conditioning was the debut album by the Progressive Rock outfit Curved Air, named after the experimental album A Rainbow in Curved Air released a year earlier by the American composer Terry Riley.  The band mixed folk and classical elements into their experimental rock to produce their own idiosyncratic sound, a sound that suffered either by poor production or the heavy-handed production of those initial 10,000 limited edition copies of the picture disc.  The LP also came out in the usual black vinyl, which was clear of the additional hissing of the picture disc.  The first side of the album begins with its most accessible song “It Happened Today”, with a confident vocal by Sonja Kristina and closes with the sprawling “Vivaldi”, Darryl Way’s frantic violin epic, which would be reprised at the end of the second side, this time with 1812-like canons.  Perhaps the most pop oriented song on the album is Daryl Way and Rob Martin’s “Blind Man”, which features an unusual vocal courtesy of Kristina, who admits it was based around a similar vocal Donovan created for his 1968 hit “Hurdy Gurdy Man”.

013 | 4 DECEMBER 2020

Flick the Dust Off | Little Feat | Sailin’ Shoes | Warner Brothers BS2600 | 1972

In the early 1970s, just after I’d jumped the high school ship and landed right on my backside in the real world, I was ready to join a hippy theatre group called ‘Arthur’, made up predominantly of students from a nearby teacher training college.  When we were not rehearsing Samuel Beckett scenes or Chekhov shorts, we would often find ourselves back at the director’s place, sharing illegal substances, spicy food and kindred musical spirits.  One of the group’s more enigmatic figures was the director’s lodger, a tall quiet man called Paul, who pretty much kept himself to himself and said very little.  He kept his records in a cardboard box next to the record player, which contained around fifty LPs and which I was always eager to dip into.  Made up almost entirely of LPs by American bands, that box contained albums by the Steve Miller Band, early Doobie Brothers, Todd Rundgren, The Flying Burritos, The Byrds and most importantly, two records by Little Feat (Dixie Chicken hadn’t yet arrived).  As Ian’s wife prepared food, I would dive into the box and out would come Sailin’ Shoes, a record that effectively kick started a lifetime love of Lowell George, although at the time I wasn’t to know just how short his lifetime would become, the singer cashing in his chips before the end of the decade. Strangely, I can’t watch a Samuel Beckett play, have a curry or be on the receiving end of a whiff of the herb, without thinking of “Cold Cold Cold”, “Trouble”, “Tripe Face Boogie”, “Sailin’ Shoes” or the timeless “Willin’”, not to mention Neon Park’s bizarre Fragonard Gainsborough inspired cover painting, depicting a cake on a swing!

Singled Out | Focus | Sylvia | Polydor 2001-422 | 1972

I first became aware of the Dutch Prog Rock band Focus after their memorable appearance on the Old Grey Whistle Test in 1972 performing a pretty delirious version of “Hocus Pocus” from their then current album Moving Waves, coupled with their then current single “Sylvia”, from their forthcoming Focus 3 double LP set.  The single was one of the few instrumental tunes that managed to enter the charts during this period, popular largely due to Jan Akkerman’s highly melodic Gibson Les Paul guitar solo.  It was the early 1970s, the age of Progressive Rock and therefore the single was destined to find its way into the little orange singles box.  Some years later I spoke to the band’s keyboard player Thijs van Leer after a Focus gig, who claimed during the interview that the band has never been Progressive, but rather Regressive.  It’s just good rock to my ears. 

Fifty Years Ago | Eric Burdon and War | The Black-Man’s Burdon | Liberty LDS84003 | December 1970

The opening epic on this double album sees Eric Burdon return to the Rolling Stones’ “Paint it Black”, famously performed at the Monterey Pop festival three years earlier, the song included on Burdon’s then current album Winds of Change with The Animals.  For this version though, Burdon presents the song as part of a sprawling seven part, thirteen and a half minute suite.  This homage to presumably a favourite Stones hit is repeated on the second side, this time with a meditation on the huge Moody Blues hit, “Nights in White Satin”, which is presented in two parts with three tracks separating the two, “The Bird and the Squirrel”, “Nuts, Seeds and Life” and “Out of Nowhere”.  The gatefold sleeve features on the cover a man’s silhouette against an African sunset, with the obligatory naked Summer of Love groupie snap on the inside.  This was the final album with Burdon in the band, the band going on to be simply named War.

014 | 11 DECEMBER 2020

Flick the Dust Off | Dan Hicks and His Hot Licks | Striking It Rich | Blue Thumb Records ILPS9204 | 1972

I was never sure if the members of the little theatre group I belonged to were more into the late night music sessions or the plays we were writing and performing at the time, but I suspect it was the former.  Another record hidden away in Paul’s box, which continued to provide a soundtrack to the late hours, once the rehearsals at a local disused church were over, came in a sleeve design resembling a book of matches.  Dan Hicks and his Hot Licks’ Striking It Rich LP was completely different from anything else in the box and showcased the San Francisco-based band’s penchant for mixing gypsy jazz with cowboy folk, country, swing, bluegrass and pop, resulting in a unique sound.  Jaime Leopold’s walking bass line that opens “You Got to Believe” owed more to jazz than anything else I was listening to at the time and therefore, opened up a new and exciting world of discovery, the fact that the old Hot Club of France swing style had now found its way into the repertoire of a band of fellow long hairs, despite one of the singers having the voice of Fozzy Bear (“O’Reilly’s at the Bar”). I still consider this LP a favourite to this day, in fact I play it so much, I scare myself.  

Singled Out | Free | All Right Now | Island WIP 6082 | 1970

Once again, a rather obvious choice for this series in fact, I can’t imagine even considering a soundtrack to go with my youth without the inclusion of Paul Kossoff’s classic opening riff.  In the late Sixties and early Seventies, there seemed to be an abundance of great songs, great bands and great record labels and once those three ingredients merged, sparks would inevitably fly.  The members of Free were thrown into the limelight at a very young age, who between them, came up with a raw yet soulful sound, which would become known around the world, largely due to the distinctive voice of Paul Rodgers, possibly one of our greatest rock voices, if indeed not the greatest.  The version that appeared on the band’s third studio album Fire And Water, had an extended guitar solo brilliantly performed by Kossoff, though this was trimmed down for the single version.  By 1990, twenty years on from the single’s original release, “All Right Now” was recognised by the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP), after reportedly being played in access of over a million times on American radio alone.

Fifty Years Ago | Ry Cooder | Ry Cooder | Reprise K44093 | December 1970

By the time Ry Cooder’s first album was released at the end of 1970, the guitarist had already had stints with both Taj Mahal in The Rising Sons and Captain Beefheart in his Magic Band, contributing to the Captain’s debut album Safe As Milk in 1967, as well as serving as a much sought after session player, even working with The Rolling Stones and appearing on their Let it Bleed album in 1968.  There was little doubt as to the standard of talent Ry Cooder possessed, especially with his handling of the bottleneck guitar styles.  When his self-titled debut solo album arrived, there was little to suggest that Cooder had his head in the sand as far as eclecticism was concerned.  A wide variety of styles were utilised from Leadbelly’s “Pigmeat”, Woody Guthrie’s “Do Re Mi” through to the more contemporary “My Old Kentucky Home (Turpentine and Dandelion Wine)”, courtesy of Randy Newman.

015 | 18 DECEMBER 2020

Flick the Dust Off | Led Zeppelin | Led Zeppelin IV | Atlantic 2401012 | 1971

I’ve never waited for a record with quite as much anticipation than that of Led Zeppelin’s fourth album, the untitled one.  By the time this album was released just before Christmas 1971, the other three records were already showing signs of wear, so often were they played and therefore I made sure I was the first to arrive on the doorstep of Foxes Records on the first floor of the Arndale Centre in Doncaster on the day this LP was released and couldn’t wait to get it in my mit.  On the bus home, I took the record out of the bag and was immediately baffled by the sleeve design, a discarded framed picture of an old man with a bunch of sticks on his back, then on the back, a photo of a district that could easily have been one of the more derelict areas of my home town.  Words were also conspicuous by their absence.  I then pulled out the grey inner sleeve, which revealed the song titles, the lyrics to “Stairway to Heaven” and a few credits including the names Sandy Denny and Peter Grant – Beauty and the Beast perhaps?  Most curious of all were the four strange symbols, which no one really understood, apart from the four people they represented.  I was confused.  Once I got the record home I played it over and over until I fell asleep.  It was just over a year later when I got to see the band at Sheffield City Hall on 2 January, 1973, where they performed “Rock and Roll”, “Black Dog”, “Misty Mountain Hop” and “Stairway to Heaven” from this album and had already begun to include material from their follow up Houses of the Holy.  Robert Plant had the flu and couldn’t quite reach the high notes, in fact their tour was abruptly cancelled after this gig.

Singled Out | Family | In My Own Time | Reprise K14090 | 1971

Third record in a row with a band whose name is a single word beginning with an F, which is a coincidence.  By the mid-1970s, the bulk of singles that I’d managed to collect in the little orange box were from around the mid-1960s onward, a period I describe as my ‘singles years’ and which encompass a varied range of musical genres, not least from the British Rock scene.  The Leicester band Family was formed in late 1966 and featured the unmistakable rasping voice of frontman Roger Chapman, who would later influence such singers as Peter Gabriel.  The band’s eighth single, “In My Own Time”, released in 1971, begins with an excrutiating wail, so excrutiating, Chapman had to repeat it.  The single quickly rose to number 4 in the UK charts, just a couple of years before the band called it a day, largely due to the well documented wind of change in popular music by the mid-1970s, with the arrival of Pub Rock, the New Wave and of course Punk.  Why everything that went before had to go still baffles me to this day.

Fifty Years Ago | John Lennon | John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band | Apple PCS7124 | December 1970

The debut solo album by the recently exited Beatle, provides a glimpse into the mind of Lennon, something that was originally attempted in such songs as “Help” a good five years earlier.  A cry for help indeed.  With the production team of Lennon, Yoko Ono and Phil Spector, with the additional contribution of Arthur Janov’s primal scream therapy, it always promised to be an interesting affair.  Initially frowned upon (as anything would’ve been post Beatles), the album has become a firm favourite among the Lennon community of fans.  If “Glass Onion” and “I am the Walrus” had hidden clues as to Lennon’s thinking, then the songs on this album present an open book, where Lennon finally speaks out.  We are left under no illusions as to Lennon’s beliefs in the brilliant “God”, nor how he feels when addressing lingering thoughts of the mother who left him when he was a child.  Themes of abandonment and reassurance are fully realised through the words and music of one of our very best.  It’s a shame that the album is chiefly remembered for an expletive in the Dylan inspired “Working Class Hero”, but that’s how it goes.

016 | 25 DECEMBER 2020

Flick the Dust Off | Livingston Taylor | Liv | Warner Brothers K 46131 | 1971

In the magical days of youth, when gazing at record sleeves in the Foxes Records in Doncaster town centre was akin to a kid in a candy store, knowing full well that the paper round wage could little afford but a fraction of the LPs available, I contented myself by making myself familiar with the music I loved simply by memorising the detail on the sleeves (much easier in those days with a full 12” square to gaze upon), then cross reference the detail in articles in either the New Musical Express (long before the shortened NME) , Melody Maker or my particular favourite Sounds.  Then, hopefully, some of the tracks might just appear on one of the very few decent radio programmes over at the BBC.  Most likely on John Peel’s Top Gear.  Then the Whistle Test would complete the weekly investigation.  One such record sleeve I drooled over featured a single seated figure in a garden with the simple word ‘Liv’ emblazoned on the cover.  What was a Liv? I asked myself. Who was it? It would be a few years later that I discovered that Liv was in fact singer/songwriter Livingston Taylor. Further investigation revealed that it was James Taylor’s kid brother.  Had I heard the LP in the first place I think I would have realised sooner as the siblings have remarkably similar singing voices.  These days, when Liv isn’t flying his planes, he can still be found writing songs and making records, his most recent being 2010’s Last Alaska Moon.

Singled Out | Jethro Tull | The Witch’s Promise | Chrysalis WIP 6077 | 1969

In 1970 is was virtually impossible to ignore Jethro Tull.  Not only was the band wildly different from all the other bands that fell under the Prog Rock banner, they were also totally accessible and even enjoyed some success in the singles chart, something other such bands tried their best to ignore, much to the dismay of their respective managers and record company executives.  “The Witch’s Promise” was the band’s seventh single and reached number 4 in the UK charts, just one place behind the band’s biggest chart success “Living in the Past” of the previous year.  Anyone who remembers this period will also recall Ian Anderson topping the music polls every year in the best ‘other instrument’ category for his distinctive flute playing, something very much to the fore from the very beginning of this memorable song and then on throughout.  So hairy were the members of this band that I didn’t know what any of them actually looked like until the mid-1980s.  

Fifty Years Ago | Wishbone Ash | Wishbone Ash | MCA MKPS2014 | December 1970

The first track I ever heard from the debut album by Wisbone Ash was without question “Lady Whisky”, which John Peel played one night on Top Gear sometime in the early 1970s, in fact it was quite possibly 1970 itself.  It was one of those frustrating moments where I didn’t manage to catch the name of either the band nor the title of the track.  Bear in mind we didn’t have the luxury of the internet to scour back then, so I spent the subsequent weeks attempting to hum the iconic riff to friends, who in turn thought I was completely barking.  I then heard the song in a friend’s flat in the early hours of the morning after a good party and discovered the rest of the album, including the iconic Wishbone Ash staple “Phoenix”.  Wishbone Ash became one of my favourite bands of the 1970s and joined the list of great bands I got to see at the Sheffield City Hall, bands that included Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Stone the Crows and Curved Air.  I would later meet up with original member Martin Turner for a chat, who I found to be a perfectly bonkers interviewee.

017 | 1 JANUARY 2021

Flick the Dust Off | Syd Barrett | The Madcap Laughs | Harvest SHVL765 | 1970

Recorded between May 1968 and August 1969, just after he parted company with Pink Floyd, due in part to some increasingly bizarre and peculiar behaviour, The Madcap Laughs is Syd Barrett’s debut solo LP.  The cover itself, designed by the late Storm Thorgerson and Aubrey Powell of Hipgnosis, shows some of these worrying signs; a sparse flat, actually Syd’s bedroom at his home at Wetherby Mansions, painted floorboards, no furniture, wilting flowers, a barefooted crouching Syd looking not quite right.  The gate fold sleeve also shows an acquaintance, known as Iggy the Eskimo, posing nude on a wooden stool, the two seemingly unaware of one another’s presence.  I became aware of the album in 1973, around the same time I discovered Kevin Coyne and like Coyne, I was initially puzzled by some of the songs, almost accusing the pair of them of not even trying.  The false start on “If It’s in You” should’ve perhaps been left on the cutting room floor.  Of course it later became apparent that Syd’s psychological state was pretty much worse than I first thought and in that context, the songs perhaps mirrored what was going on in Syd’s head.  I don’t know what Coyne’s excuse was though.  Side two of this album, from “Octopus” through to “Late Night”, is a journey into the unknown and was perhaps not the most suitable soundtrack for my mid-teens angst, in fact it was positively harmful.  Reciting “Terrapin” to ‘chicks’ was invariably unrewarding, even on a good day.

Singled Out | Dave Brubeck Quartet | Take Five | Fontana H339 | 1959

An unusual choice for this section granted and by far the earliest recording in this series, but significant nevertheless.  Recorded in 1959, a couple of years after I was born, The Dave Brubeck Quartet’s single “Take Five” could almost be described as the soundtrack to my early childhood, a very familiar, yet almost awkward tune, an instrumental you couldn’t possibly whistle or hum without getting yourself tied up in an aural knot.  The infectious little instrumental was written in 5/4 time by the saxophonist Paul Desmond and the shorter single version went on to become the biggest selling jazz record of all time and is still played often on the radio to this day.  Though the single version of “Take Five” is a good deal shorter than the album version, both versions belong to the smoother, less edgy side of cool jazz, with that instantly recognisable sax riff and prominent drumming courtesy of Joe Morello. 

Fifty Years Ago | Kate Taylor | Sister Kate | Atlantic 2400118 | January 1971

The siblings of James Taylor were not backward in coming forward at the height of brother Jim’s success.  Older brother Alex and younger brother Livingston had already entered the fray and by 1971, it was time for kid sister Kate to release her confident debut solo album.   In contrast to her brothers, Kate relied initially on cover versions by the cream of contemporary song writers, including Carole King (“Home Again”, “Where You Lead”), Beverley Martyn (“Sweet Honesty”), Mike D’Abo (“Handbags and Gladrags”), Elton John and Bernie Taupin (“Ballad of a Well Known Gun”, “Country Comfort”), along with one or two of her brothers’ songs (“You Can Close Your Eyes”, “Be That Way”).   Helping out on this Pete Asher-produced album is a veritable who’s who of contemporary talent, including Linda Ronstadt, Lee Sklar, Russ Kunkel, JD Souther, Bernie Leadon, Danny Kortchmar as well as the sweet baby himself.

018 | 8 JANUARY 2021

Flick the Dust Off | Kevin Coyne | Marjory Razor Blade | Virgin VD251/2 | 1973

I remember precisely when and where I bought Kevin Coyne’s double LP set Marjory Razor Blade.  It was Bradley’s Records in Doncaster, right next to the West Laith Gate entrance of the Arndale Centre, now the Frenchgate Centre and it was the day after John Peel featured the Derby-born singer songwriter live on his late night programme.  I’d never encountered such a voice before and part of me knew I would like the album he was promoting on the wireless that night and part of me was absolutely convinced this would also irritate both of my sisters to death (it did).  There was something primal in Coyne’s performances, almost as if he was making it up as he goes along.  His acoustic guitar was primitive and his voice was like the sound of a feral cheese grater with an additional sneer.  Though I bought the album on the strength of such eccentric songs as “Dog Latin”, “Karate King”, “Good Boy” and “This is Spain”, I soon discovered another side to this extraordinary talent, the heart breaking “House on the Hill”, which still sends a shiver whenever I hear it.  In a perfect world, this song should perhaps appear on many ‘top ten songs of all time’ lists.

Singled Out | Eric Burdon and War | Spill the Wine | MCA 14118 | 1970

The 1960s saw some dramatic changes in music in a relatively short ten year period, from the beat groups of the early part of the decade to the totally transformed rock stars of the late Sixties and early Seventies.  Who could really have seen Sgt Pepper coming, while watching The Beatles perform at the Royal Command Performance in 1963, let alone “Revolution 9”?  The Animals were the scruffy untidy end of the blues-based beat groups of the mid-1960s but by 1970, lead singer Eric Burdon emerged as quite possibly the very first Latin rapper in pop music, according to War band mate Lonnie Jordon.  I first heard the single “Spill the Wine” in the early 1970s on the United Artists sampler LP It’s All Good Clean Fun and was immediately attracted to its infectious groove.  The inspiration for the song apparently came from an amused Burdon, when finding an upturned wine glass on the mixing desk in the recording studio.  Burdon and Jordon both found it so funny that they decided to write and record the song there and then.

Fifty Years Ago | Elvis Presley | Elvis Country (I’m 10,000 Years Old) | RCA Victor SF8172 | January 1971

If the cover of any album released in 1971 represented an artist reflecting on his/her roots, or at least their formative days, then Elvis Presley’s Elvis Country (I’m 10,000 Years Old) probably does it best.  The so-called King appears as a two year-old a good few years before his coronation, both singled out in sepia and also with his folks in a captioned inset, his two year-old lip already working its magic.  All twelve songs were recorded live, giving the album a distinctive live sound throughout, with a series of hugely irritating ‘links’ added to the coda of each track, reminding us that the King is ten thousand years old (!)  It was 1971, therefore any bonkers idea could (and was) taken advantage of.  Elvis is in fine voice as he tackles a selection of songs written by of the top names in rock and roll and country, including Willie Nelson (“Funny How Time Slips Away”), Bill Monroe/Lester Flatt (“Little Cabin on the Hill”), Gene MacLellan (“Snowbird”) with a nod to Jerry Lee with “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On”).

019 | 15 JANUARY 2021

Flick the Dust Off | The Mothers of Invention | We’re Only in it for the Money | Verve 2317 034 | 1967

When I first heard this LP, I didn’t quite know what to make of it; it sounded like Frank Zappa had taken miles of tape, cut it up into small pieces and randomly stuck it all back together again.  By 1972, I’d already bought the previous Mothers album Absolutely Free and therefore knew what I was getting myself into.  With a gate fold sleeve parodying Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, though inverted to avoid record company executives having an unnecessary nose bleed, I initially thought the whole thing might have been a spoof on the Beatles classic, but I soon discovered that it was an almost scathing attack on the hippie subculture and the summer of love in general and that it came from the alternative angle of the ‘freak’ culture through biting satire.  If I was slightly confused at the start of the first side, being repeatedly asked “are you hung up?” or who the Peace Corps might be, what the ugliest part of the body is or why a track called “Absolutely Free” was on this LP and not the previous one, by the end of “Flower Punk”, the penny had finally dropped.  A lifelong association with Frank Zappa’s music began, whose humour, satire, orchestral ambitions and musical dexterity was just the ticket.  Strangely, I never got to see him live, though I saw him on the big screen behind his son Dweezil, as the pair of them performed the entire Apostrophe album, going on to perform another hour’s worth of Zappa’s repertoire at the York Barbican, including “Rollo, Gumbo Variations”, “Dancing Fool” and even “What’s The Ugliest Part of Your Body?” of all things.  When Frank died in 1993 he was just 52.  He left easily twice as many years worth of music.

Singled Out | The Move | Brontosaurus | Regal Zonophone RZ 3026 | 1970

The Move was one of the few pop bands of the mid to late 1960s whose singles had the credibility to cross over to rock audiences.  It was with the band’s heavy riff-laden single “Brontosaurus”, that saw the first flowering of the rock outfit they soon became – if just for a short period – before the band morphed into the Electric Light Orchestra and Wizzard respectively.  The Birmingham-based band also managed to look the part, with Roy Wood’s tinted shades and hair of unprecedented length being an outstanding feature.  With Roy Wood stepping into the shoes of the recently departed lead singer Carl Wayne, the single was notable as being the first to feature Jeff Lynne.  Wildly different from the band’s previous single “Curly”, “Brontosaurus” was destined for repeat plays on the Dansette through that year and it still comes out to play even now.  I still to this day, have no idea how to do the ‘Brontosaurus’.

Fifty Years Ago | Little Feat | Little Feat | Warner Bros K46072 | January 1971

There’s only the slightest hint of what Little Feat would become over the next decade on their debut LP released at the beginning of 1971.  There’s a lot of blues sky on the cover, giving little away as to who these four musicians actually are.  Those familiar with Frank Zappa and the Mothers would no doubt recognise the names Lowell George and Roy Estrada, though Bill Payne and Richie Hayward may just have been new to many.  Before the needle had the chance to settle into its groove, a new audience is introduced to a sound that would become so familiar over the next few years, as Lowell George’s slide style electric guitar took command on the introduction to the funky “Snakes on Everything”.  Despite the appearance of another noted bottleneck player, Ry Cooder, on the outstanding Merle Haggard influenced road song “Willin’”, the song wouldn’t really attract the attention it fully deserved until a reworking of the song on the band’s follow up Sailing Shoes a year later.  The album is made up of chiefly original songs with just the one nod to a couple of blues legends, a medley incorporating the old Roosvelt Sykes piano-led number “Forty-Four Blues” and Howlin’ Wolf’s “How Many More Years”, again featuring Cooder’s distinctive slide work.

020 | 22 JANUARY 2021

Flick the Dust Off | Captain Beefheart & the Magic Band | Lick My Decals Off Baby | Straight STS 1063 | 1970

This was the only occasion when I was relieved that I didn’t have to ask the young lady at the counter for the record.  Going into a record shop and asking for Lick My Decals Off Baby was a daunting prospect even in Doncaster, which conjured up every scenario from a simple slap to being marched off to the nearest constabulary in cuffs.  Fortunately the LP was right there in the browser and I was saved from further embarrassment.  I first heard Beefheart on the John Peel show, a track from his second album Strictly Personal, “Son of Mirror Man – Mere Man”, which had an enormous effect on me.  Decals came later, when I’d already managed to absorb most of the challenging Trout Mask Replica.  Standing in the record shop reading the credits whilst considering whether to buy this or save my hard earned bread for several pints of Carlsberg in the Yorkist later that night, I was immediately drawn to such song titles as “Woe-is-uh-Me-Bop”, “I Love You Big Dummy” and “I Wanna Find a Woman That’ll Hold My Big Toe Till I Have To Go”, which I couldn’t imagine the Everly Brothers ever singing.  I took the sleeve to the counter, thankful that the title was written in a fine almost unreadable script and took the thing home to delight my dad, who clearly thought I was bonkers.

Singled Out | Redbone | Witch Queen of New Orleans | Epic SEPC1154 | 1971

Written by the Native American brothers Lolly and Pat Vegas of the California-based band Redbone, the subject of the song is said to be the 19th-century practitioner of Voodoo, Marie Laveau, or Marie La Voodoo Veau, according to the song’s lyrics.  The record was played often on the radio throughout the early 1970s, although not much was known of the band at the time and indeed still to this day.  Redbone, whose name derives from a Cajun term for a mixed-race person, was inspired initially by Jimi Hendrix, who the band empathised with due to his own part-Cherokee heritage.  The song, released in 1971, was taken from the band’s third album Message from a Drum and might be described as a ‘one hit wonder’ although the band did score a couple of other hits in the US with “Maggie” in 1970 and “Come and Get Your Love” in 1973. The weird wailing effect featured throughout the song was made by ‘bowing’ the guitar strings with a drumstick. They have machines to do this today.

Fifty Years Ago | Janis Joplin | Pearl | CBS 64188 | January 1971

It’s hardly difficult to understand Janis Joplin’s impact on audiences between the mid to late 1960s, the voice perfectly explains this on its own, and that’s without the singer’s charismatic stage presence.  We fortunately have some of those festival and concert appearances on film, most notably her set at Monterey in the middle of the Summer of Love.  Whether it’s the clever editing or not, Cass Elliott’s reaction to her performance of “Ball and Chain”, as the miniature gold-clad blues diva makes an impression, provides the Texan singer with a reputation that would outlive her.  Joplin died just three years down the line.  The female equivalent to James Brown perhaps, Joplin takes something like “Cry Baby” and delivers it like it just might be the last song she ever performs.  The same could possibly said of the album opener “Move Over”, yet it’s not all soulful bluster, there are one or two tender moments on Pearl, notably the soothing “A Woman Left Lonely” and her take on Kris Kristofferson’s “Me and Bobby McGee”, which demonstrates Joplin’s country credentials.  Providing many an unaccompanied female folk singer with a nice opener/finisher to their folk club floor spot, “Mercedes Benz” is presented here as if it was just that, a throw away song for the audience.  Nice to have that famous Joplin cackle on record for posterity.

021 | 29 JANUARY 2021

Flick the Dust Off | Nic Jones | Penguin Eggs | Topic 12TS411 | 1980

The very first time I visited a UK folk club was in 1982, shortly after a near fatal accident involving a car, a lorry and the folk singer Nic Jones.  Nic had just finished a gig at the Glossop Folk Club and the accident that night became stuff of legend.  Once I’d visited the Rockingham Arms Folk Club in Wentworth and began to mix with, for want of a better term, ‘folkies’, I came to the understanding that no folk record collection would be complete without a copy of Penguin Eggs by this highly regarded singer/guitar/fiddle player and so I put that right immediately by going out and buying a copy.  I already had a vague knowledge of who Nic Jones was from a Jon Raven LP I had knocking about at the time called Songs in a Changing World, which featured Nic on guitar and fiddle, which I’d borrowed from a neighbour, whose dad apparently started the Traditional record label.  I devoured Penguin Eggs and soon discovered a guitar style that sounded relatively easy to play, but was in fact extraordinarily difficult.  After several attempts at playing those few chords, I asked a nurse friend to disentangle my frustrated digits and I never bothered trying again.  I was fortunate to meet Nic a few times, the first time in York, where he gave my son some good advice on playing folk music, “don’t take this music as seriously as we all did, just enjoy it”, a notion we were both happy to take on board. 

Singled Out | Alice Cooper | School’s Out | Warner Bros K16188 | 1972

Quite by coincidence, I left school in the summer of 1972 just as Alice Cooper’s aptly titled record “Schools Out” was enjoying some chart success in the UK, the song reaching the number one spot in June of that year.  The significance of the song at that particular time cannot be overstated; a defining rite of passage song.  Who else has left school to such an school leaving anthem other than those in the summer of ’72?  But it was the year before when I first became aware of the LA band, which was led by the charismatic sword-wielding, snake charming, mascara wearing son of a preacher man, Vincent Furnier, when I heard the opening song to the band’s previous album Killer, released in the winter of 1971.  It was “Under My Wheels” that first caught my attention, a rock and roll song with attitude, which also opened the Warner Bros sampler album Fruity, the first circular shaped album sleeve I had ever come across.  Both songs would be played repeatedly at a friend’s house every Saturday night as we two 15 year-olds enjoyed a bottle of Guinness and a night of rock music, possibly the original Bill and Ted, recently of Balby High School. 

Fifty Years Ago | McDonald and Giles | McDonald and Giles | Island ILPS 9126 | January 1971

I think it was the sleeve on the McDonald and Giles LP that first caught my attention, being probably more impressed with the musician’s girlfriends than the two Herbert’s pictured on the gatefold sleeve, in much the same way as I was always more intrigued with Liccy and Rose on the Incredible String Band LP sleeves.  Once again, it was the Island label that also caught my attention, at a moment in time when everything on the label seemed to be crucial listening (well almost).  Today in record stores up and down the country, this LP can usually be found in the box marked ‘pink label’, which almost guarantees to contain other LPs by the likes of Fairport Convention, John Martyn, Amazing Blondel, Traffic, Free and King Crimson, the band that Ian McDonald and Michael Giles had left before recording this album, the duo’s only release.  McDonald and Giles also features contributions from Peter Giles, Steve Winwood and Michael Blakesley, who played trombone on “Tomorrow’s People”.

022 | 5 FEBRUARY 2021

Flick the Dust Off | Rickie Lee Jones | Rickie Lee Jones | Warner Bros K56628 | 1979

In the 1980s I occupied myself with various tasks as a volunteer at a local hospital radio station, which involved presenting a weekly folk show, then a jazz show, then a pop album show, which led to a senior position (Programme Controller) and ultimately the fool who was coaxed into towing the outside broadcast caravan to various weekend events.  This is when I realised that if you’re cursed with an inability to say ‘no’, they get you doing everything.  I digress.  During those pop show years, I played Rickie Lee Jones almost every week.  “Chuck E.’s in Love” is just such a great radio song and I was convinced that playing it made the patients better, that was until I realised that nobody was actually listening at all.  “Just give us a ring and I’ll give you a thousand pounds” I declared on air, which was proof enough for me as I waited in vain for the phone to ring.  Despite this small inconvenience, I was happy in the knowledge that there was at least one person enjoying the shows and I continued to play several songs from this album (and others) throughout the 1980s.  With contributions from Dr John, Randy Newman and Michael McDonald, the album features such gems as “The Last Chance Texaco”, “Weasel and the White Boys Cool” and the sleazy “Easy Money”, which was covered by Lowell George and was the only single released from his solo album Thanks, I’ll Eat it Here, in the same year.

Singled Out | The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band | I’m the Urban Spaceman | Liberty LBF 15144 | 1968

The first time I became aware of the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band was back in the late 1960s when they appeared each week as the resident band on the children’s comedy TV show Do Not Adjust Your Set, a weekly programme that would launch the careers of some of the members of the Monty Python team.  Much of my fondness for surreal humour began with this show and it was fitting that the Bonzos were part of the fixtures.  Neil Innes wrote many of the songs for the band including this novelty song, which was released in 1968, reaching number five in the UK charts.  Produced by Paul McCartney under the pseudonym Apollo C. Vermouth and with an equally popular b side “Canyons of Your Mind”, written by Viv Stanshall, the single went on to win an Ivor Novello Award in the same year.  To my regret, I never did get to see the Bonzos live, though I did get to see Neil in the guise of The Rutles in York a few years ago, when we were given the opportunity to relived the golden days of the Pre-Fab Four with two sets of Rutles hits performed by original members Ron Nasty and Barry Wom (John Hasley), together with a band of fab musicians.  It was good to hear once again such classics as “Cheese and Onions”, “Piggy in the Middle”, “Doubleback Alley” and “Get Up and Go”.  The Rutles have the second best story in the history of pop.

Fifty Years Ago | Barclay James Harvest | Once Again | Harvest SHVL 788 | February 1971

Oldham’s very own Prog outfit Barclay James Harvest always seemed to be shoving out albums in the early 1970s, having no less than four out between 1970 and 1972, each released on EMI’s progressive imprint Harvest.  Once Again, as the title might suggest, is the second release by the band, memorable for its stained glass butterfly gatefold, which was not, surprisingly enough, the work of Hipgnosis but rather Latimer Reeves.  Recorded with a full orchestra, as was done, possibly too often in those days, Once Again finds the band in experimental mode, with John Lees, Les Holroyd, Stuart ‘Woolly’ Wolstenholme and Mel Pritchard keeping the mellotrons to a reasonable level of use.  Perhaps the best remembered song on this album, and any of their others come to think of it, is the gorgeous “Mocking Bird” – No, not the ‘Mock’ (‘yeah’), ‘Ing’ (‘yeah’) version, something entirely different.

023 | 12 FEBRUARY 2021

Flick the Dust Off | Roy Harper | Flat Baroque and Berserk | Harvest SHVL766 | 1970

1970 saw the release of Roy Harper’s fourth LP, the first record by the singer to have chart success.  The album was recorded at Abbey Road Studios and the first of Harper’s LPs to be released on the Harvest label.  Listening to the LP forty-two years on, it’s difficult to refrain from cringing at some of the studio chat that has been pointlessly left in.  There is also an appearance by Prog Rock giants The Nice on the album closer, “Hell’s Angels”.  Every self respecting music fan of the time made an effort to collect all the LPs featured on the inner sleeve.  This was one of them along with Pink Floyd’s Ummagumma, Third Ear Band’s Alchemy and Michael Chapman’s Rainmaker.

Singled Out | Area Code 615 | Stone Fox Chase | Polydor 2066-249 | 1970

Fifty years on from the first edition of The Old Grey Whistle Test, possibly the most influential music magazine show ever shown on British television, it still intrigues me why this instrumental track by Area Code 615, a relatively little known Nashville-based session band made up of some of the leading players of the day, was chosen for the theme tune for this long-running show.  As familiar to viewers as the show’s most memorable host Bob Harris, the tune is basically a drum and harmonica duet, featuring Charlie McCoy, a notable session musician who had already worked on such classic Dylan albums as Blonde on Blonde and Nashville Skyline.  The much sampled track is particularly remembered for its opening few seconds, but has later drawn attention by samplers for its hypnotic breakdown midway through, featuring a mixture of congas, drum set and cowbell with additional kalimba.  “Stone Fox Chase” is one of those singles that you can’t listen to without thinking about the OGWT and we can’t think of the OGWT without thinking about Charlie McCoy’s memorable harmonica riff.

Fifty Years Ago | Carly Simon | Carly Simon | Elektra K42077 | February 1971

Like many in the UK, Carly Simon didn’t come to my attention until 1972, when “Your So Vain” reached the charts, with all the speculation over who it might be about.  No Secrets, from which that song was lifted, was in fact Simon’s third album, having already produced two albums in the previous year, this being her debut.  Prior to the release of Carly Simon, the singer had already been involved in a duo with her older sister Lucy, under the guise of the Simon Sisters.  Their father was the Simon in the publishing giants Simon and Shushter and therefore the singer is possibly incapable of unshackling herself from the chains of privilege, even if she wanted to.  Nevertheless, what can’t be denied is that Carly Simon is in possession of an immediately recognisable voice whether she’s singing about Warren Beatty (or whoever) or doing a Bond theme.  Surprisingly Carly Simon was produced by Eddie Kramer, the man behind some of Joe Cocker and Jimi Hendrix’s best known work.  If “That’s the Way I’ve Always Heard It Should Be” and “Dan, My Fling” are considered stand-out tracks, then Buzzy Linhart’s “The Love’s Still Growing” is a memorable closer.

024 | 19 FEBRUARY 2021

Flick the Dust Off | Steely Dan | Can’t Buy a Thrill | ABC ABCL 5024 | 1972

Again, it was the Old Grey Whistle Test that brought this band to my attention way back in the early 1970s via a live clip of the band performing “Reeling in the Years”.  Aesthetically, this album had nothing going for it really, with its garish Pop Art lips, its sleazy row of 1950s hookers and foetus-like nymph straddling the shoulder of a shirtless Terry Wogan lookalike and let’s not forget the band is named after a sex aid (courtesy of William Burroughs), yet the music almost literally jumps out of the speakers upon first hearing “Do it Again”, “Reelin’ in the Years” and “Fire in the Hole”.  The album also offers a couple of songs that both my wife and I agree upon (finally), the soulful “Dirty Work” and the country-inflected “Brooklyn (Owes the Charmer Under Me)”, both of which include a fine vocal courtesy of the outgoing David Palmer.  These days, whenever I see OGWT anniversary shows, I always expect to see Donald Fagen and the late Walter Becker, reeling in those years.

Singled Out | James Taylor | You’ve Got a Friend | Warner Bros K16085 | 1971

Two specific events drew me to the songs of James Taylor, firstly his appearance on Top of the Pops back in 1971, performing his version of Carole King’s “You’ve Got a Friend”, which I always considered to be a much better version than the original.  Secondly, I recall a student from High Melton Teacher’s Training College sitting down next to me one evening and singing “Sunny Skies”, a James Taylor original from his previous album Sweet Baby James, accompanying herself on a classical guitar, which I considered the sweetest sound I’d ever heard.  “You’ve Got a Friend” is a song that seems to have been with me throughout my entire life, though I was all of 14 when I first saw this awkward looking lanky Boston-born singer songwriter, slumped over an acoustic guitar on that edition of TOTP, while I awaited patiently for the weekly appearance of Pan’s People.  There was something in Taylor’s gentle voice that caught my attention and it wasn’t long before I was bothering the assistant at Foxes Records for Mud Slide Slim and the Blue Horizon, from which this song had been lifted.  It was the beginning of my obsession for the ‘singer songwriter’ as a genre, which also included the likes of Joni Mitchell, Jackson Browne and Randy Newman.

Fifty Years Ago | Yes | The Yes Album | Atlantic 2400101 | February 1971

Considered the band’s breakthrough album after two reasonably received introductory efforts, their self-titled debut of 1969 and the superior Time and a Word (1970), The Yes Album sees the band taking further steps into the burgeoning world of Progressive Rock, with a rarely heard boldness.  The gatefold sleeve was the thing we fourteen year-olds quite enjoyed to attempt to decipher, identifying things that were perhaps not worth deciphering in the first place.  What’s this, a frame of cellulose film?  What’s this green filter?  What’s this head of a mannequin?  Why is there a cast on Tony Kaye’s foot?  Why the additional vacant chair?  Silly questions, but thoroughly engaging.  There could also be questions about the musical content on The Yes Album, like why include “The Clap”?   It’s the only live track on the album and it’s little more than a wanky show off ragtime guitar tune from the fingers of Steve Howe, the title of which either refers to the audience’s reaction to the tune or a taboo hazard that comes with rock musician territory, something I never found out.  Joking aside, The Yes Album was an important addition to my burgeoning collection in the early 1970s and a world away from the music that would later have so much scorn placed on it by the next generation of music fans.

025 | 20 FEBRUARY 2021

Flick the Dust Off | Dusty Springfield | Dusty in Memphis | Mercury 5707137 | 1969

Dusty’s voice was one of the first female voices I ever heard coming from the old teak radiogram back in 1962, when I was just five-years old.  “Island of Dreams” was one of the most played singles around the house at the time and one that resonated with me, especially the optimistic chorus, “high in the sky is a bird on a wing, please carry me with you, far far away from the mad rushing crowd, please carry me with you”, which was pure escapism for a kid who had no inclination of washing his neck or eating onions.  I desperately wanted to be on that bird’s wings.  If the Springfields’ folky song filled my childhood dreams with hope, then hearing that same voice eventually mature into what we were to hear just six years later was nothing short of staggering.  Dusty in Memphis is one of those albums largely ignored at the time of its release, only to be picked up on much later, though “Son of a Preacher Man” had long been a favourite.  It’s little surprise that many still consider Dusty to be the greatest British female vocalist of all time and some of the proof of that is captured on this record.

Singled Out | Strawbs | Lay Down | A&M AMS7035 | 1972

Who could ever forget Dave Cousins and his cohorts in Strawbs (no definite article), resplendent in their glitter suits and mascara, keeping up with all things ‘glam’, while miming to this earlier hit on the telly back in 1973?  If the folky Strawberry Hill Boys looked slightly uncomfortable alongside such major exponents of Glam as David Bowie, Marc Bolan and the lads from Sweet (though they looked a little too comfortable it has to be said), drummer Richard Hudson made every effort to smile throughout, albeit with what looked like a missing incisor the size of the moon.  The year before, the single “Lay Down” became the band’s first top 20 hit, reaching number 12 on the UK chart, a record that was played frequently on the jukebox at the Silver Link, where I was drinking illegally throughout that same year, having barely left school.  The song’s memorable opening guitar riff, which is repeated a couple of times in show-stopping fashion, together with its hymn-like singalong chorus, was a welcome sound as I sipped nervously on half a lager, while keeping my eye on the pub’s door in case Mr Plod walked in.  In an attempt to keep up the momentum, which in all fairness worked, the band’s follow up release went as far as number 2, with the utterly dreadful “Part of the Union”, which was kept off the prime spot by both “Blockbuster” by the aforementioned Sweet and “Cum on Feel the Noize” by the literacy challenged Slade.  Many years later, I interviewed Dave Cousins in his dressing room, while he was changing his trousers.

Fifty Years Ago | Carole King | Tapestry | Ode SP 77009 | February 1971

When the CD first came along, a small number of classic albums were released and seemed to be not only in all the CD browsers at you local record shop, but just about every supermarket around the country.  Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On was there, as were Van Morrison’s Moondance and Joni’s Blue.  There was also the more contemporary Dire Straits album Brothers in Arms. , giving us the opportunity to buy an album we’d only just bought for a vastly increased amount!  Before I go off on one, let’s bring it back to these classic albums , one of them being Carole King’s masterpiece Tapestry from 1971.  With a sleeve featuring possibly the most famous cat in the world, with the possible exception of Jerry’s pal, Tapestry epitomises the singer songwriter album, quite popular among the bedsit communities of the early 1970s.  King had already been at this song writing game for several years, pushing out a conveyor belt of hits from the Brill Building, giving The Shirelles “Will You Love Me Tomorrow”, Little Eva “The Loco-motion”, The Drifters “Up on the Roof” and Aretha Franklin “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman”.  By the time Tapestry was released, King was already a natural and gifted song writer, either on her own or with a co-writer, notable Jerry Goffin her former husband.  King’s debut solo album Writer was recorded after moving base from New York City to the then Mecca of current song writers, Laurel Canyon, which brought the singer into the LA artistic community, which was at the time ‘living the dream’ until Manson put an end to all that.