Vinyl Collection | 026-050

026 | 26 FEBRUARY 2021

Flick the Dust Off | Aretha Franklin | Aretha Now | Atlantic SD8186 | 1968

The first time I heard the voice of Aretha Franklin was probably “I Say a Little Prayer”, which reached number 4 in the UK charts back in 1968, though the first single I bought was “Spanish Harlem”, which came along a little later in 1971.  When Aretha died in 2018, it was obvious to me that we’d lost one of the greatest voices of our times in any genre.  Aretha Now was released exactly fifty years earlier and it still sounded great when I popped it on the turntable in respect after the singer lost her short battle with cancer.  I was just packing to go on a family holiday to Cornwall for a couple of weeks and stuck a few Aretha CDs in the car for the drive down.  I needn’t have bothered, as Radio 2 played many of her songs on that five and a half hour drive down, indicating that I was far from being the only one saddened by this singer’s untimely passing.  Released in 1968, Aretha Now was the first Aretha Franklin LP I bought and remains one of my favourites to this day, not least for the inclusion of “Think”, “Say a Little Prayer” and “You’re a Sweet Sweet Man”.

Singled Out | The Crazy World of Arthur Brown | Fire! | Track 604022 | 1968

In 1968 I was probably just as shocked as the next person, the next person in this case being my dad, who sitting right next to me, when during Top of the Pops, the kids’ weekly half hour TV concession, up jumped onto our screens a wide-eyed and white-caped Arthur Brown, complete with tribal painted face and with his head on fire.  I seem to recall dad grunt, put down the evening paper and head towards the kettle in a mixture of mild irritation and disgust.  Fortunately he didn’t stay around long enough to see the singer remove his fire helmet, disrobe and the spend the rest of the performance gyrating manically while warning us all that we were ‘gonna burn’.  Even my two sisters looked at me in silence as they waited for The Love Affair to come on.  Today, the video and song seem quite tame in comparison to the musical exhibitionism that was to come in the subsequent years, but in 1968, it was totally ground breaking and forced parents into considering whether it was time to lock away their sons as well as their daughters.

027 | 12 MARCH 2021

Flick the Dust Off | Jonathan Kelly | Twice Around the Houses | RCA Victor SF8262 | 1972

When I first saw Jonathan Kelly play live, he’d been around the houses a good few times already.  I was far too young to catch him the first time around and I always thought that I’d perhaps missed out on the opportunity, Jonathan having retired from the music business decades earlier.  It was really good to see him return to the stage, if only temporarily, when I heard dozens of familiar songs for the first time live, “Ballad of Cursed Anna”, “We’re All Right Til Then” and “Sligo Fair” among them.  The week before that particular concert in Doncaster, I played a short set at the same club and promoted the next gig by singing a fairly pedestrian version of “Sligo Fair”, a song from this LP, in which I changed the final chorus from ‘Sligo Fair is just a week away’, to ‘Jonathan Kelly is just a week away’ to one or two guffaws from the audience.  Too many syllables I know, but I got away with it nonetheless.  Apparently, the concert was taped and the performance was played (rather embarrassingly) to Jonathan, who when I met up with him a week later, wrote “thanks for doing my song” on the cover of this, his best known LP.  Sadly, we lost Jonathan in 2020.

Singled Out | Humble Pie | Natural Born Bugie | Immediate IM 082 | 1969

I had a huge admiration for any band that Steve Marriott was involved with, particularly The Small Faces and then again with the super group Humble Pie, which in their early days also featured Peter Frampton, Greg Ridley and Jerry Shirley.  Performance: Rockin’ the Fillmore remains one of my all-time favourite live albums to this day, due in no small part to the sheer energy captured on the two disc set.  “Natural Born Bugie”, sometimes “Natural Born Boogie” or even occasionally referred to as “Natural Born Woman”, was the band’s debut single released in 1969 on the pink Immediate label, shortly before the label’s demise in 1970.  The single managed to get to number 4 in the British singles chart and clearly marked the beginning of a fruitful career for a band that went on to record almost a dozen albums over the next decade.  Steve Marriott’s untimely death in a house fire in the early 1990s put an end to any serious notion of reforming the band, although Jerry Shirley made an attempt to re-launch a version in 2002 releasing just one album. 

Fifty Years Ago | Mott the Hoople | Wildlife | Atlantic SD8284 | March 1971

Recorded in February 1970, Mott the Hoople’s third studio album Wildlife was released in the UK back in May 1971 on the Island label and on Atlantic in the US.  The classic band line-up at the time was still Ian Hunter, Mick Ralphs, Verden Allen, Pete ‘Overend’ Watts and Dale ‘Buffin’ Griffin, each of whom were represented by their own symbols on the cover artwork, a good six months before Led Zeppelin came out with theirs, albeit in the case of Mott, they were merely generic astrological symbols with Hunter and Allen sharing the same one.  The album opens with Mick Ralphs’ “Whisky Woman”, a mixture of a straightforward, almost pedestrian rock riff, together with a pop chorus, Ralphs taking the lead vocal, as he also does on “Wrong Side of the River”, “Home is Where I Want To Be” and the country flavoured “It Must Be Love”.  The album was mostly produced by the band, though Guy Stevens was around to produce the opening track and co-produce a couple of others, but remained suspicious by his absence for the rest.  He was back to produce the band’s next album Brain Capers later in the year, before standing aside for David Bowie to take care of things on All the Young Dudes (1972).  The album also features a reworking of a Melanie gospel song, “Lay Down” which appeared on her own Candles in the Rain album around the same time.  To a young school kid at the time, it wasn’t the songs, it wasn’t the hair, it wasn’t the shades, it was those weird shaped guitars all the way.

028 | 19 MARCH 2021

Flick the Dust Off | Claire Hamill | One House Left Standing | Island ILPS 9182 | 1971

All my girl friends in 1971 (real or imagined) appeared to look like Claire Hamill.  Just seventeen years old on the cover of her debut LP, Claire was rightly or wrongly compared to Joni Mitchell, which was probably more of a hindrance than a help.  Nevertheless, Claire was a regular feature in all the music press at the time and as a consequence, was adored by one sweaty Herbert from Doncaster.  The cover shot of One House Left Standing, inexplicably sees out heroine perched upon some railway debris in an industrial part of Middlesbrough with the Tees Transporter Bridge looming large in the background.  It was a little like John Everett Millais painting Ophelia in a puddle at the face of a South Yorkshire colliery.  John Martyn plays on the record as does Terry Reid and David Lindley, good company for this young northern schoolgirl to say the least.  I was fortunate enough to meet up with Claire over three decades later and fell in love with her all over again as she signed my old crackly copy of this memorable LP, who then got up on stage with her guitar to perform “The Man Who Cannot See Tomorrow’s Sunshine”, “Where Are Your Smiles At” and the jaunty “Baseball Blues”, all from this LP.

Singled Out | Badfinger | Come and Get It | Apple 20 | 1969

Written and produced by Paul McCartney in 1969, “Come and Get It” was another song originally composed for the cult film The Magic Christian, which starred Peter Sellers and Ringo Starr, the song featured in both the opening and closing sequences of the film as well as being the opening song on Badfinger’s debut album Magic Christian Music.  The song was originally recorded as a demo with Paul McCartney playing all the instruments, which the Beatle then passed on to Badfinger, then still known as The Iveys, demanding that the band record the song precisely to his arrangement on the demo.  In subsequent years the band suffered much turmoil in terms of personal relationships and business difficulties, which resulted in not one, but two suicides, most notably Peter Ham, who wrote some of the band’s most memorable songs including “Without You”, which became a huge hit for both Harry Nilsson and Mariah Carey.

Fifty Years Ago | Leonard Cohen | Songs of Love and Hate | CBS S69004 | March 1971

It was quite common in the early 1970s to hear the name Leonard Cohen and ‘razor blades’ in the same sentence.  This was more than likely due to the song “Dress Rehearsal Rag”, which openly discusses suicide and places the Canadian singer-songwriter, novelist, poet and ladies’ man firmly on the bleak shelf in the record shop.  Of course this is nonsense and much of Cohen’s work is much more multi-faceted than that of a downbeat purveyor of depression.  If both Cohen’s previous LPs Songs of Leonard Cohen and Songs from a Room feature the singer with a similarly stoic expression on each of the covers, then by Songs of Love and Hate, our hero is positively chuckling himself into a state of chronic euphoria.  If “Dress Rehearsal Rag” focuses on the hate (self hate in this case), then the love comes over in “Last Year’s Man”, “Famous Blue Raincoat” and “Joan of Arc”, albeit in entirely different contexts.  Bob Johnson once again looks after production as he did on Cohen’s previous album, and guitarist Ron Cornelius provides some of his sensitive noodling.  The album also features a live recording of “Sing Another Song Boys”, which was recorded at the previous year’s Isle of Wight Festival.

029 | 26 MARCH 2021

Flick the Dust Off | Nick Drake | Heaven in a Wild Flower | Island ILPS9826 | 1985

Those whose musical taste began to develop just as the 1960s morphed almost seamlessly into the 1970s, might possibly remember the name Nick Drake from the series of Island sampler LPs such as Nice Enough To Eat (“Time Has Told Me), Bumpers (“Hazy Jane) and El Pea (“Northern Sky”).  In my case, Drake’s songs would be largely ignored as I dove straight into the tracks by Free, Mott the Hoople, Traffic or even Quintessence, heaven forbid.  My first real introduction to Nick’s songs came a few years later, when in around 1985, Island brought out the affordable Heaven in a Wild Flower compilation, released a good ten years after the singer’s untimely death.  The LP features fourteen of Drake’s most representative songs and probably served as a slice of nostalgia for the handful of fans who remembered him and who bought his three albums upon their initial release, but also a signpost for those new to his music.  It wasn’t until a few years after the release of this LP though, that young musicians would begin to take a real interest in Nick Drake through other compilations such as Way To Blue, or the Fruit Tree box set, or indeed a certain radio documentary presented by onetime collaborator Danny Thompson, all of which effectively rescued the singer-songwriter from on going obscurity.  Since then you can hardly turn on the TV without hearing snippets of Nick Drake’s guitar in commercials or as part of some movie soundtracks.  It’s also worth noting that when Joe Boyd sold his Witchseason production company to Island Records, it came with the condition that all three of Nick Drake’s official solo albums, Five Leaves Left, Bryter Layter and Pink Moon,  would always remain available, which they are to this day.

Singled Out | The Beach Boys | Good Vibrations | Capitol CL15475 | 1966

I often wonder what it must have been like to have been in Brian Wilson’s circle in the mid-1960s, sitting around the poolside with Van Dyke Parks dangling his little legs in the cool water, while Mike Love directs hippy dippy lyrics in the general direction of a bloated musical genius busily emoting at a grand piano, albeit standing in an indoor sand pit.  I remember seeing photographs of Brian in the studio, wearing a red fireman’s helmet, while twiddling with the knobs and faders on a huge sound desk, creating astonishing sounds that I’d only previously heard on the theme tune to Dr Who.  I later discovered this was the sound of the Theremin, the only musical instrument I’m aware of that requires no physical contact to get a sound out of it.  The multi-layered sounds that were poured into “Good Vibrations”, allegedly over ninety hours of tape, had an enormous effect on me, a song I first heard on the radio in the same year as England’s one and only victory in the World Cup.  The sound of mad cellos permeated the back alleys of my hometown, augmented by rich human voices in harmony, emphasising the word ‘good’ as if it were a message from the Gods.  Strangely, I never really took much notice of the lyrics, only to discover much later that I was singing a completely different song.  ‘I hear the sound of the church bells ring’ appears nowhere in the song after all.

Fifty Years Ago | Buffy Sainte-Marie | She Used To Wanna Be A Ballerina | Vanguard VSD 79311 | March 1971

By the time this LP came out, Buffy Sainte-Marie had already released six albums, making a name for herself on the burgeoning folk music scene of the 1960s.  I think I was drawn to this LP mainly for the song “Soldier Blue”, which was the title song from a popular feature film of the early 1970s, which addressed the plight of the Native American and the erosion of their culture, which at the time was notorious for its gruesome scenes of utter carnage.  The song was released as a single and remains one of Buffy Sainte-Marie’s most popular songs.  The songs on the album are made up of five self-penned, “Soldier Blue” being one of them, while the rest are written by others, including a fine take on the Goffin/King number “Smack Water Jack”, which Carole King had just recorded for her landmark album Tapestry around the same time, Leonard Cohen’s little known “Bells” and a version of Neil Young’s “Helpless”, which includes guest appearances by Young himself and fellow Crazy Horse band mates Danny Whitten, Ralph Molina and Billy Talbot. 

030 | 2 APRIL 2021

Flick the Dust Off | The Steve Miller Band | Masters of Rock Vol 3 | Capitol C054-81 583 | 1973

In the early to mid 1970s I discovered the Steve Miller Band, one  of San Francisco’s leading rock bands, through my fellow thesps in the college theatre group I was involved with at the time.  Between the members of this group, we made a concerted effort to collect the entire Steve Miller Band LP collection, including Children of the Future, Sailor, Your Saving Grace and Recall the Beginning.. A Journey From Eden, even sending off to the US for the Holy Grail of Steve Miller LPs at the time, Brave New World, which was only available through import.  In 1973, Capitol Records released an impressive introduction to the Steve Miller Band in their budget series Masters of Rock, which for me is still one of the best of Miller’s records, despite it being a retrospective collection.  The budget-priced LP features some of the band’s best know songs from the band’s first seven albums, including “Journey From Eden”, “Living in the USA” and “Rock Love”, together with the appearance of a new song “The Joker”, with its memorable ‘wolf whistle’ guitar riff, which had only just been released as a single, inevitably bringing the band to a wider audience.  To anyone new to the Steve Miller Band, this is a good place to start.

Singled Out | Small Faces | Itchycoo Park | Immediate ZS7 501 | 1967

Of the records released by the Small Faces in the mid to late 1960s, “Itchycoo Park” was the only one that jumped out as me as something slightly more adventurous than their previous singles such as “Watcha Gonna Do About It”, “Sha-La-La-La-Lee” and the band’s number one smash “All Or Nothing”.  The fact that the band had moved from Decca to the Immediate label seemed to give the Small Faces a little more credibility as the single joined a growing collection of psychedelic records, which included the Beatles’ “Strawberry Fields Forever”, Traffic’s “Hole in My Shoe” and Procol Harum’s “A Whiter Shade of Pale”.  Ronnie Lane, who co-wrote the song with Steve Marriott, claims that the title refers to the stinging nettles in a local Ilford park, where they used to play as kids.  Despite the song’s assumed drug references and psychedelic leanings, which included one of the first uses of the ‘flanging’ or ‘phrasing’ studio technique, “Itchycoo Park” remains one of the most accessible and memorable pop records of the Summer of Love.

Fifty Years Ago | Caravan | The Land of Grey and Pink | Deram SDL-R1 | April 1971

It all probably seems a little bit twee these days when we think of all the Tolkein-influenced purveyors of Prog that were around in the early 1970s.  Roger Dean was all over the shop, creating his fantasy landscapes to go with Jon Anderson’s inexplicable lyrics that were undecipherable by anyone not actually from Middle Earth, while Bo Hansson was busy conjuring up music especially for Hobbits to dance to.  All along, strange pastoral goings on were happening in the shadow of Canterbury’s lofty spires.  Caravan’s In the Land of Grey and Pink was probably the band’s high point, an album considered by many to be the band’s best record, a band that at the time consisted of one Pye, one David and no less than two Richards (Hastings, Sinclair, Sinclair and Coughlan respectively).  In good old Prog fashion, one side of this LP is a sprawling twenty-two minute piece made up of eight different sections with such titles as “Dance of the Seven Paper Hankies” and “Hold Grandad by the Nose”, something you can easily sit down and ponder over on the futon in a joss stick haze, but absolutely useless for the purposes of a jukebox.  There’s Hobbit-like imagery featured on “Winter Wine” and some of the band’s noted humour on the album opener “Golf Girl”.

031 | 9 APRIL 2021

Flick the Dust Off | The Bunch | Rock On | Island ILPS9189 | 1972

In 1971, British folk rock had pretty much established itself with bands like Fairport Convention, Steeleye Span and Fotheringay, who between them produced a stack of classic albums.  With Trevor Lucas at the helm, a bunch of these folk rockers decided to get together and return to their real roots, which was actually much more recent than anything from Cecil Sharp’s day. The Bunch, as they called themselves, recorded a selection of Fifties covers by the likes of Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly and The Everly Brothers. The Rock On LP featured amongst others, Sandy Denny, Richard Thompson, Ashley Hutchings, Pat Donaldson Gerry Conway, Dave Mattacks and a mate of Sandy’s who went on to marry Richard Thompson, Linda Peters. The LP also had a bonus flexi-disk attached to the cover, a Gerry Conway drum workout, “Let There Be Drums”.  On the sleeve notes they say of Richard Thompson ‘on this album he exposes his roots and inability to play boringly’.

Singled Out | The Rolling Stones | Honky Tonk Women | Decca F.12952 | 1969

Originally written as a country song, influenced by both Hank Williams and Jimmie Rodgers, “Honky Tonk Women” has become one of The Rolling Stones’ signature tunes over the last six decades.  You wouldn’t want to attend a Rolling Stones gig and not hear this song.  The song was written by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards and was released as two quite different versions; the single version and a country honky tonk version, which appeared on the Let It Bleed album in the same year 1969. On the single version our heroine was discovered in a bar room in Memphis, whilst on the album, the action moved to Jackson, some 210 miles away.  Brian Jones was at the sessions when the original country version was recorded, but by the time the band came to release the single version, Mick Taylor had joined the band after Jones’ tragic and untimely death, the song becoming something quite different, with its familiar guitar riff and one of Charlie Watts’ finest moments, a casual cowbell motif intro that is now instantly recognisable around the world and probably beyond.

Fifty Years Ago | The Rolling Stones | Sticky Fingers | Rolling Stones COC 59100 | April 1971

Sticky Fingers is probably my favourite of all Rolling Stones records and for a variety of reasons.  It might be that it came along just at the time I was beginning to really take notice of the band.  It could also have something to do with the superb opening track “Brown Sugar”, one of rock’s great album openers.  Then again it might have something to do with the highly inventive sleeve design by Pop Artist Andy Warhol, an image of a pair of jeans complete with a real zipper, but perhaps most of all, it might have something to do with the outstanding material on the album, such as “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking”, “Wild Horses” and “Moonlight Mile”.  What’s not to like?  The album may be packed with drug references, but if you’re not specifically looking for those references, it’s easy to ignore them, perhaps in the same manner as some are more than happy to think that “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” is about a girl called Lucy, flying in the sky, with a bunch of diamonds.  One such song “Sister Morphine”, which can’t really escape from its obvious references, was in fact written by Marianne Faithfull, but Messers Jagger and Richard thought it necessary to withhold this information, crediting themselves instead.  A very noble rock and roll gesture.

032 | 16 APRIL 2021

Flick the Dust Off | Creedence Clearwater Revival | Green River | Liberty LBS83273 | 1969

I can’t remember where or when I first heard Creedence Clearwater Revival, probably on the radio back in 1969.  Neither can I remember which was the first of the small collection of CCR singles I bought, probably “Bad Moon Rising”, the band’s only chart topper in the UK, in the same year.  With a steady newspaper round together with a weekly wage of one pound sterling, I was able to expand upon my LP record collection, then currently standing at just the one and of the records I would buy around this time, most would be cheap sampler LPs.  One of my regular haunts was Foxes Records in the Arndale Centre, a place I would visit even if my pockets were empty, which was more often than not.  Flicking through the browsers became a regular pastime, carefully pulling each record sleeve out to read everything printed on it.  If ever I had sufficient coinage in my pocket, I would read more intently and spend a great deal more time deciding which record to buy.  Creedence Clearwater Revival’s third LP Green River, with its tangible mottled sleeve showing a seemingly carefree sun-drenched California quartet led by John Fogerty, was a bit of a no brainer at the time.  They were briefly my favourite band in the late Sixties and I’d had my eyes in the record for some time.  I remember taking the record out of the plastic carrier bag on the bus home and gazing at the picture on the cover, which was dominated by the figure of John Fogerty.  I had an insatiable desire to look just like that.  Sadly, later that same year, a similarly attired Charles Manson ordered his followers to take up murder as a pastime, which kind of spoiled all the fun.  Some great tunes here though, including “Bad Moon Rising”, “Lodi” and the title song of course.

Singled Out | Mott the Hoople | All the Young Dudes | CBS S8271 | 1972

In 1972, things began to change dramatically in the world of rock and roll.  In the previous year it would be quite normal to see members of our rock bands wearing Levis, white tennis shoes, maybe a floral shirt and tank top, or possibly army surplus wear, and most of the audience would be suitably attired to match.  Come 1972 though, things started to look quite different with glitter, satin and sequins as Glam Rock infiltrated our concert halls.  Mott the Hoople was one such band whose initial LP releases were the former through and through, yet by 1972 and with a little help from David Bowie, Mott the Hoople changed dramatically, with platform shoes, unusually shaped guitars and a distinctly different attitude on stage.  “All the Young Dudes” was both written and produced by Bowie as was the album which followed shortly afterwards.  The lyric referring to stealing clothes from Marks and Sparks had to be changed for radio to stealing clothes from unlocked cars, but the original is still widely played nevertheless.  I first saw the band in 1972 and called for “Thunderbuck Ram”, the opening song from their second album Mad Shadows, whereupon the bloke next to me, dressed from head to foot in bacofoil said ‘oh they won’t play that honey, they’ve definitely moved on’.  He was right.

Fifty Years Ago | The Nice | Elegy | Philips 6303 011 | April 1971

Elegy was one of the must have albums of 1971, simply because it featured a live version of their show stopping ten minute version of the West Side Story tune “America (2nd Amendment)”, which was one of the tracks frequently played at the Doncaster Top Rank’s regular Progressive Rock night.  It was hard to believe that the same sound system was used on a Saturday morning for The Archies “Sugar Sugar” and Saturday night for exclusively Soul and Motown.  On a Monday night though, the Top Rank on Silver Street became the domain of Uriah Heep’s “Gypsy”, Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love” and Keith Emerson and Co performing this Leonard Bernstein classic, recorded live at the Fillmore East, New York.  Complete with obligatory Hipgnosis gatefold sleeve, Elegy also features a bit of Tchaikovsky, a little Tim Hardin and an almost ten minute reading of Bob Dylan’s “My Back Pages”.

033 | 23 APRIL 2021

Flick the Dust Off | Traffic | John Barleycorn Must Die | Island ILPS9116 | 1970

In the late 1960s and early 1970s it was difficult to keep up with Little Stevie Winwood.  He’d already fronted the Spencer Davis Group as a fifteen-year old soul singer, then formed the rock band Traffic with Jim Capaldi, Chris Wood and Dave Mason, who churned out such psychedelic singles as “Paper Sun” and “Hole in My Shoe”, before settling into a critically acclaimed jazz rock outfit that went on to rub shoulders with the likes of Free, King Crimson and Jethro Tull on the burgeoning Island label.  After Mason left the band, Winwood enjoyed a very brief spell in the short-lived supergroup Blind Faith with Clapton, Baker and Rick Gretch, before regrouping with the two remaining members of Traffic, Capaldi and Wood, to record the band’s fourth album, which began as a Winwood solo project but soon became a full blown Traffic release.  Among the jazz fusion of “Glad” and “Empty Pages”, the soulful rock of “Every Mother’s Son” and the bluesy “Stranger to Himself”, the band surprised just about everyone with a veritable show stopper, a delicate reading of the traditional folk song “John Barleycorn”. 

Singled Out | Neil Young | Heart of Gold | Reprise K14140 | 1972

It was hard to escape the sound of Neil Young in the early 1970s, which was largely due to his hugely successful third solo album After the Goldrush and its follow up Harvest.  The now familiar acoustic sound of this era was as a result of a back injury Young suffered, which effectively forced him to sit for a while with an acoustic guitar instead of standing with an electric guitar.  The harmonica playing was so similar to Bob Dylan’s style that Dylan was allegedly disdainful of the record, especially in view of the fact that it had reached the number one spot in the US charts.  “Heart of Gold” was one of the first songs in my growing collection to feature the pedal steel guitar (played by Ben Keith), which would be joined by countless others in the years to come.  With both James Taylor and Linda Ronstadt singing on the record, “Heart of Gold” remains one of the most played singles in my collection.  

Fifty Years Ago | Doobie Brothers | The Doobie Brothers | Warner Bros K46090 | April 1971

Though perhaps not the first album I ever heard by the Doobie Brothers, it was in fact the first LP I sought out, almost immediately after discovering the band’s second album Toulouse Street towards the end of 1972 in a second hand record shop in Doncaster.  After the initial relief, that the band chose to appear fully clothed on the stark black and white cover, in contrast to the once seen, hard to unsee, centre spread of their second album, I found the band’s sound already pretty much established on the opening song “Nobody”, with some almost manic acoustic guitar, which effectively gets the album off to a good start.  The album sold poorly initially, allegedly being picked up by a mere handful of Californian hippies, yet listening to the album fifty years on, it’s every much as enjoyable as their later, more successful albums.  If anything, the Doobie Brothers were an important band in my mind, notably for pointing me in the direction of the other West Coast bands to follow, including Little Feat and The Eagles, opening an entirely new catalogue of albums that would in turn lead me to the likes of Jackson Browne, Jesse Winchester and Warren Zevon.

034 | 29 APRIL 2021

Flick the Dust Off | Robert Wyatt | Rock Bottom | Virgin V2017 | 1974

Produced by Pink Floyd’s Nick Mason, Robert Wyatt’s second solo effort is notable not only for the brilliant compositions, but for being the moment when Wyatt’s riotous Keith Moon-like behaviour came to an abrupt end, the drunken ex-Soft Machine drummer falling from a fourth-floor window, an incident that would see to it that he remained in a wheelchair from then on.  Rock Bottom was in preparation during this period and some of the material is based on a mind coming to terms with a difficult life ahead.  I was having my own difficult period too, namely ‘17’, the worst age of all and I’d already entered a world of all things Soft, Tubular or Virginal, with particular interest in Fred Frith.  The avant-garde music of the time was certainly somewhat more interesting than anything on the mainstream front, despite Johnny Walker’s efforts to wean listeners off Donny Osmond and David Cassidy and onto The Eagles and The Doobie Brothers.  I think I took it a step further and chose Henry Cow and the Softs as the way to go.  Wyatt made a huge impression on me at the time and seemed to bridge the gap between my early teen life and my oncoming adulthood by recording an almost tongue-in-cheek version of “I’m a Believer”, a song I loved as a kid by The Monkees.  The rest is history, with some of Wyatt’s work having been re-visited by The Unthanks, in fact, the only time I ever met up with Wyatt was after an Unthanks gig in Lincoln back in 2009.

Singled Out | Steve Miller Band | The Joker | Capitol CL583 | 1973

It took The Steve Miller Band a good five years to break through in the UK with “The Joker”, a single that went to the number one spot in the British charts in 1973.  After seven great rock albums, which were hardly noticed in the UK at all, starting with Children of the Future in 1968 Sailor (1968), Brave New World and Your Saving Grace (1969), Number 5 (1970), Rock Love (1971) and Recall the Beginning A Journey from Eden in 1972, it took a catchy little pop song using the nonce word pompatus, the syrupy term lovey-dovey, together with a wolf-whistling guitar lick, to garner the attention of the Brits.  I became a firm fan of the band in the early 1970s, playing the aforementioned records regularly after rehearsals with a local theatre group, whose male members were all strangely enough into this band.  The personnel at the time of recording “The Joker” included Gerald Johnson, Dick Thompson and John King and Ahmet Ertegun takes a writing credit along with Miller and Eddie Curtis.

Fifty Years Ago | Crosby Stills Nash & Young | 4 Way Street | Atlantic 2400132/33 | April 1971

I was a late comer to Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, a band I only really noticed when I heard them on the triple LP Woodstock soundtrack, then a few years later on the actual Woodstock film, which I didn’t see until around 1977 on its second cinema run, at the Gaumont Theatre in Doncaster.  The band was literally all over the film, not only during their impressive acoustic stage appearance, in which they performed a pretty faithful “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes”, which I later discovered was edited and overdubbed to make it sound as good as it does, making me think that it probably sounded lousy on the night, but also through the use of such tracks as “Long Time Gone”, “Wooden Ships” and a rocked-up version of Joni Mitchell’s “Woodstock”, which was played through the closing titles.  This double live album is far from disappointing, with performances that really show off the talents of four individuals rather than an actual band, which CSN&Y never really was.  It actually sounds like a live album should, complete with the odd audience encouragement from Graham Nash and one or two mid-song giggles.  It doesn’t sound at all like a bunch of musicians who would go on to fall out and engage in infantile squabbling throughout the years to come.

035 | 30 APRIL 2021

Flick the Dust Off | 10cc | Deceptive Bends | Mercury 9102 502 | 1977

I was always a little unsure about 10cc, the 1970s Beatles-influenced rock pop band, possibly due to the fact that the band came from the same stable of such forgettable outfits as The Bay City Rollers, The Piglets and Typically Tropical, headed by the man who recorded “Everyone’s Gone to the Moon”.  Despite Jonathan King’s input, 10cc soon developed as a major force on the British music scene, from their early hits, such as “Donna”, an almost straight copy of Paul McCartney’s “Oh Darling” from the Abbey Road period, “Rubber Bullets”, “Art for Art’s Sake” and “I’m Not In Love”.  The hits just kept coming throughout the 1970s, each entirely different from the last with no apparent formula to speak of.  The band fragmented in 1976 with the departure of Kevin Godley and Lol Creme, leaving Eric Stewart and Graham Gouldman to function as a duo, who would continue to use the name and release a series of subsequent albums, starting with Deceptive Bends.  Surprisingly, even in 1977 the year of Punk, John Peel still had space between the noise to play the entire three-part “Feel the Benefit”, on his late night Top Gear show, which effectively coincided with Peel and I parting company for a while.

Singled Out | Brian Protheroe | Pinball | Chrysalis 2043 | 1974

I first heard this single when it was first released back in 1974 on Radio One during one of the insipid daytime radio shows, possibly hosted by Simon Bates.  It was like a breath of fresh air to me as I was at the time spending a great deal of time in a one room bedsit with a female friend and the song seemed to fit in with the bedsit ethos.  Aside from his singer-songwriter credentials, Brian Protheroe was also a stage actor who could be seen in the odd TV drama at the time, who also had a bit part in the blockbuster Superman film, released four years later in 1978.  Listening to the song today is pure nostalgia.  Fact: A couple of years ago I attended a sing-a-round at a local folk club after spending the day re-learning the song in preparation for performing it that night.  As I waited for my turn to come around the singer immediately before me played the bloody song!  How’s that for a coincidence?

Fifty Years Ago | The Doors | LA Woman | Elektra EKS 75011 | April 1971

This was the final album by the Doors to feature Jim Morrison, recorded a year before he went off to Paris to drink himself to death.  It’s pretty much back to blues for the most part, though the album does feature one or two show stoppers, such as the sprawling “Riders on the Storm” and the equally sprawling title cut.  “Love Her Madly” is probably the most commercial song on the album, which was released as a single, going on to reach number 11 on the Billboard singles chart in 1971.  Fifty years on and the LP can be found once again in record shops around the world, with a rather more expensive price tag than, let’s say the band’s self-titled debut or The Soft Parade, which is probably due to the sleeve that features a transparent window, the yellow background being the record’s inner cardboard sleeve.  Classy.  

036 | 7 MAY 2021

Flick the Dust Off | Sam Chatmon | Sam Chatmon’s Advice | Rounder 2018 | 1979

I remember exactly when I first became aware of the Mississippi Delta bluesman Sam Chatmon.  It was in the late 1970s, when Alexis Korner introduced The Devil’s Music, a TV series that investigated the story of the blues, with Sam Chatmon being one of the featured performers.  Well into his seventies at the time of broadcast, the bearded singer, who in his early career performed with his family band The Chatman Brothers as well as The Mississippi Sheiks, performed one or two songs from his home in the Mississippi Delta, revealing a new and exciting world of rural blues that I was up until that point completely unaware of.  Alexis Korner played more of Sam’s songs from the LP Sam Chatmon’s Advice on his Sunday evening radio show, including “Let the Good Times Roll”, “That’s Alright” and “Good Eating Meat”, which prompted me to go out and find this LP.  Blues LPs of this nature were still difficult to come by at the time but fortunately, there was a copy in my local library, which I borrowed and kept with me for a while, cranking up a few fines in the process.  Sam died shortly afterwards in 1983 and there’s a headstone memorial to Chatmon in Sanders Memorial Cemetery in Hollandale, Mississippi, which was paid for by Bonnie Raitt with the inscription, ‘Sitting on Top of the World’.

Singled Out | Tommy James and the Shondells | Mony Mony | Major Minor D469 | 1968

It wasn’t so much the smell of toffee apples and candyfloss that drew me to the fair along Sandford Road, nor was it the tempting sizzle of the hot dogs and burgers on the hot plate.  I confess, it may have been the girls or perhaps even one or two of the rides, notably the waltzers and the speedway, but I have a strong feeling after all these years, that it might have been something else, even for an eleven year street urchin.  It was the loud pop music that they played as the waltzers spun and the speedway rotated and the dodgems crashed.  Tommy James and the Shondells’ “Mony Mony” created the greatest impression as steady beat and hand claps built to the song’s infectious chorus, perfectly complemented by the swirling colours of the painted rides and inviting smells of the aforementioned culinary delicacies.  “Mony Mony” was later covered by Billy Idol who attempted to inject some energy into the song while simultaneously taking all of the energy out.

Fifty Years Ago | Edgar Broughton Band | Edgar Broughton Band | Harvest SHVL 791 | May 1971

I became a bit of a fan of the Edgar Broughton Band around the time of the release of the band’s third studio album back in May 1971 and probably received the LP as a birthday present from confused if not alarmed parents.  The sleeve was controversial due to the nude figure hanging upside down in an abattoir surrounded by similarly hooked meat, although it would probably be the meat that later generations would object to rather than the nude figure.  The album was recorded between July 1970 and February 1971 and saw the return of original member Victor Unitt, who had left the band when it became a less blues focused concern.  The album was produced by Peter Jenner and featured such guests as Mike Oldfield on mandolin on “Thinking of You” ,  David Bedford on piano on “Getting Hard/What is a Woman For?” and surprisingly The Ladybirds on the album opener “Evening Over the Rooftops”, a female vocal trio who were best known for their TV work with the likes of Max Bygraves, Val Doonican and Benny Hill.  What they must have thought about Edgar Broughton is anyone’s guess.  I confess that at school, I once submitted Evening Over the Rooftops as a poem in my English class and got a star.  

037 | 8 MAY 2021

Flick the Dust Off | Gram Parsons | GP | Reprise K4422 | 1973

The first time I heard Gram Parsons was probably while he was still with The Byrds, way back in the days when I would pop by Doncaster market to browse the stall that sold singles in the late 1960s.  I distinctly recall sifting through piles of ex-jukebox 45s and coming across “You Ain’t Going Nowhere” by The Byrds on the CBS label.  As with many bands of the era, my understanding of them developed once I obtained my 1971 copy of Lillian Roxon’s Rock Encyclopaedia, which became my own personal music bible.  This led me to the further discovery of The Flying Burrito Brothers, though Gram Parsons as a solo artist hadn’t yet been listed.  Once I’d absorbed the Flying Burrito back catalogue, I became impressed with Parsons not only as a singer, but also as an artist responsible for making Country Music cool once again.  The Nudie suits worn by the likes of Porter Waggoner, were redesigned to include Marijuana leaves rather than Waggoner’s Wagon Trains and Cactus plants.  GP was Gram’s debut solo LP, recorded in Hollywood and released in 1973, for which he surrounded himself with some major players on the country music scene such as James Burton, Byron Berline, Al Perkins and of course, Emmylou Harris.  You only have to listen to “Streets of Baltimore”, “She” and “We’ll Sweep Out the Ashes in the Morning”, to become hopelessly hooked.

Singled Out | The Byrds | Chestnut Mare | CBS 5322 | 1971

There was a man who ran a stall on Doncaster Market in the late 1960s, who sold exclusively 45rpm singles, usually good quality second hand records or ex-jukebox singles with the middles punched out, all of which occupied several small cardboard boxes along three lengthy tables, to form a square, which placed the owner right in the middle, always alert to either the rain or the sun, both of which threatened the safety of his treasured stock.  I bought many records from this stall and was always on the look out for affordable rock gems.  On this stall, I remember seeing what could almost constitute an abundance of records by the Byrds, including this one, which he always seemed to have several copies at any given time.  I think I actually bought “Chestnut Mare” simply due to the record turning up so many times during each browse.  Written by founder member Roger McGuinn along with Jacques Levy for a stage musical that didn’t actually come to fruition, “Chestnut Mare” features spoken word passages and an infectious chorus, with a longer version included on the band’s 1970 album Untitled.

Fifty Years Ago | Paul and Linda McCartney | Ram | Apple  PAS 10003 | May 1971

Paul and Linda McCartney’s collaborative album released just over a year after the official break up of The Beatles was very much derided at the time of release by both critics and fans alike, not least for the alleged digs at Paul’s former writing partner on such songs as “Too Many People”, “Dear Boy” and “3 Legs”, the latter identified as a jibe against all three ex-band mates, though much of it was denied by the McCartneys.  To me, Ram is just a great listen, an album packed with highly melodic, if at times whimsical songs and an album that might have benefitted with the inclusion of “Another Day”, which was recorded at the same sessions in New York, but released as a single instead and kept off the album as many of the Beatles singles before it were.  Ram was the first post Beatles record I bought, while George Harrison’s superior All Things Must Pass came later, mainly due to it being a more expensive triple album.  I still don’t own a copy of John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band on record for some unaccountable reason.

038 | 14 MAY 2021

Flick the Dust Off | Woodstock Mountains | More Music From Mud Acres | Rounder 3018 | 1977

I didn’t get to the Cambridge Folk Festival the year that the Woodstock Mountain Revue appeared there, an informal affiliation of folk-based musicians from the Woodstock area of New York, who apparently stole the show.  This LP followed the collective’s debut album released a few years earlier under the title of Mud Acres: Music Among Friends, which was recorded back in 1972.  More Music From Mud Acres was introduced to me by an old friend who attended this particular festival in 1979, which was also the year that Ry Cooder famously played his acoustic solo set.  Credited to Woodstock Mountains rather than The Woodstock Mountain Revue, this second helping featured Happy and Artie Traum, John Herald, Jim Rooney, Bill Keith and Roly Salley, plus many more.  The highlights were many, but we can start with Artie Traum’s “Cold Front” and “Barbed Wire”, John Sebastian’s reading of the traditional “Morning Blues” and Roly Salley’s “Killing the Blues”, a song later covered by Robert Plant and Alison Krauss for their collaborative Raising Sand album.  That same old friend also brought back from the festival a copy of the official poster, one of those made in the days when posters were works of considerable artistic merit and it was a constant reminder of what a good year I missed every time I visited the house, not only having missed the Woodstock Mountain Revue and Ry Cooder, but also Doc Watson, Loudon Wainwright III and Rockin’ Dopsie and the Cajun Twisters and all for a mere £7.50.

Singled Out | Paul McCartney | Another Day | Apple R5889 | 1971

Probably my favourite of all the post-Beatles singles.  “Another Day”, credited to ‘Mr and Mrs McCartney, was recorded around the same time as Paul and Linda’s first album together, Ram in New York back in 1971, but wasn’t included on the album, but was released as a single instead, much in the same manner as many of his former band’s single releases.  The song has McCartney written all over it; everyday events such as taking a morning bath, drying off, slipping into stockings, dipping into shoes etc., and all to a fine McCartney standard melody.  Similar in feel to the middle section of “A Day in the Life”, with its breathless first person narrative of running for the bus being replaced by the third person dreariness of the office environment, while our heroine dreams of her ideal partner coming along to whisk her away at any given moment, or at least in her daydream that is.  It’s just a brilliant and simple song that never grows old or tired.

Fifty Years Ago | Ian Matthews | If You Saw Thro’ My Eyes | Vertigo VEL 1002 | May 1971

Ian Matthews was originally from Barton-upon-Humber but moved just up the road from my town before his teens.  I didn’t really become aware of the singer until his band Matthews Southern Comfort released the Joni Mitchell song “Woodstock” in 1970, a song that seemed to be on the radio almost constantly.  I was too young to know anything about his involvement in Fairport Convention until the early 1970s when he’d already left the band after a couple of album releases.  One or two of his ex-band mates make appearances on this album, notably Richard Thompson on guitar and accordion and Sandy Denny duetting on the title song.  If You Saw Thro’ My Eyes was the first of two LPs to be released on the Vertigo label, the same label as my Black Sabbath LPs, the second being Tigers Will Survive, which was released a year later.  The cover shot of the young singer songwriter wrapped in a purple haze seemed to echo the feel of other such singer-songwriter albums of the period such as Carole King’s Tapestry, Tom Paxton’s 6 and Emitt Rhodes’ eponymous second LP.  What’s with singer-songwriters and windows?   

039 | 21 MAY 2021

Flick the Dust Off | Loudon Wainwright III | Album II | Atlantic 2400 142 | 1971

A chap called Stu Morton introduced me to the songs of Loudon Wainwright III at a late night party in the early 1970s and I immediately became a fan.  It was completely different to the rock music I was into at the time and the songs gave me something to think about.  I didn’t realise that you could put an album out with just a mug shot on the cover, no smiles, no glamour, just the guy next door.  It may have had something to do with the mixture of humour, irreverence and that inimitable sneer that I would become more familiar with over time that attracted me to this performer.  While “Me and My Friend the Cat” provided the sneer, “Motel Blues” provided the beauty, despite its dodgy subject matter.  In the early 1970s I used to make a note of the date of purchase on the inner sleeve, certainly for the first couple of dozen LPs that I bought and this one clearly states ‘73.  I know I heard the album earlier, but maybe I had to wait until I got a job before I could buy my own copy, which would have been two years after the album’s initial release.  The LP also led to the discovery of Kate and Anna McGarrigle, John Prine, Steve Forbert and a host of others.

Singled Out | Isaac Hayes | Theme From Shaft | Stax STXS2010 | 1971

I first became aware of Isaac Hayes when I came across a second hand copy of his third LP The Isaac Hayes Movement, which features just four tracks, two of them coming in at just under twelve minutes, George Harrison’s “Something” and Jerry and Bill Butler’s “I Stand Accused”, which features a smouldering, if somewhat sprawling, five minute spoken intro.  It was an odd thing for me to be listening to when my musical diet at the time consisted of the Edgar Broughton Band and Hawkwind. If the name Isaac Hayes was pretty much unknown generally in 1970, barely a year later his name was known by many, as a direct result of his work on the soundtrack to the popular blaxploitation movie Shaft, in which he appeared in a cameo role.  The theme tune was released as a single, which went to the top of the Billboard charts and reached number four in the UK charts in 1971.  There was something intriguing about the single, which was lifted from the double soundtrack album released in the same year, which probably had a lot to do with the funky wah-wah guitar intro.  A treat for fans of the single was seeing the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain perform their version of the song at the Cambridge Folk Festival in 2007, with the memorable line ‘What’s the most important thing about a coal mine apart from coal? (audience – ‘Shaft!’)  ‘No, no, no, it’s the Humphry Davy Safety Lamp’. 

Fifty Years Ago | Graham Nash | Songs for Beginners | Atlantic K40237 | May 1971

Graham Nash’s debut solo album begins with an autobiographical lyric, ‘in an upstairs room in Blackpool, by the side of a northern sea, the army had my father and my mother was having me’, an open invitation into Nash’s background, having at the time abandoned Old Blighty for the sunshine excesses of Laurel Canyon, shacking up with one Joni Mitchell and being one third of one of the biggest musical combos in the world.  Songs for Beginners was released almost simultaneously with three other solo albums by each of his fellow bandmates David Crosby, Stephen Stills and Neil Young.  Recorded in both Los Angeles and San Francisco, after splitting with Mitchell, Nash seemed eager to get back to basics and record meaningful songs of change, transformation and renewal, a positive step in any break up.  For this debut effort, Nash surrounds himself with an array of notable contributors such as David Crosby, Chris Ethridge, Jerry Garcia, Rita Coolidge, Dave Mason, Neil Young, David Lindley, Bobby Keys and Phil Lesh among others.

040 | 22 MAY 2021

Flick the Dust Off | Lou Reed and John Cale | Songs For Drella | Sire 7599-26140-1 | 1990

I came to Songs for Drella through the accompanying film, recorded in the intimate setting of the Brooklyn Academy of Music, with no audience in attendance.  Lou Reed and John Cale perform the songs face to face with infrequent glances to one another and hardly a smile.  Three years after the death of pop artist Andy Warhol, the former Velvet Underground band mates reunited for this song cycle project, both reflecting on the life of their friend and former mentor, producer and manager.  The abrasive pair hadn’t spoken to one another for years until meeting up once again at Warhol’s memorial service in 1987.  After a suggestion by the painter Julian Schnabel, the two began working on these highly personal songs, including “Open House”, “Style it Takes”, “It Wasn’t Me” and Cale’s moving poem “A Dream”.  The name Drella, a mixture of Dracula and Cinderella, was never completely adopted by Warhol himself, though many of his friends used it as an affectionate nickname.  After this collaboration Reed and Cale vowed never to work together again, then surprisingly reformed Velvet Underground shortly afterwards, after which, the two musicians retook their vows and didn’t work together again.   Looking back at this album and the film in particular, it’s remarkable how youthful they both looked at the beginning of the 1990s.

Singled Out | Ike and Tina Turner | Nutbush City Limits | United Artists UP35582 | 1973

It would have been the incredibly funky guitar licks, the clavinet and the early synthesizer solo, that first drew me to “Nutbush City Limits” back in the early 1970s when I first heard the song on daytime radio.  I was already very much aware of the Phil Spector produced “River Deep, Mountain High” and one or two other Ike and Tina songs at the time, but it was this single that sealed the deal for me.  Semi-autobiographical, the song was written by Tina about her home town of Nutbush in Tennessee, where she would go to the store on Fridays and go to church on Sundays.  It wasn’t long after the release of this single back in 1973 that Tina had the good sense to escape the stranglehold of her abusive husband and musical partner, making this the duo’s final hit single together.  Once Tina got her life back together, things changed and the singer reinvented herself as a pop diva and found her place in history as one of the truly great performers of our time.

Fifty Years Ago | Pink Floyd | Relics | EMI Starline SRS 5071 | May 1971

Released between Atom Heart Mother and Meddle, Relics is a compilation of some of Pink Floyd’s earlier successes, notably the Syd Barrett composed singles “Arnold Lane” and “See Emily Play”.  Subtitled A Bizarre Collection of Antiques & Curios and wrapped in a cover that shows a sort of pre-steampunk line drawing by drummer Nick Mason, Relics was originally released on the budget Starline label to keep the funds coming in during what was predicted to be their next album Meddle’s long gestation period.  The compilation also features material from the band’s first three studio albums released between 1967 and 1969, The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, A Saucerful of Secrets and More, plus one previously unreleased song “Biding My Time”.   Naming a compilation Relics just four years after the earliest track on the album just goes to show how quickly time seemed to be passing at that time.  Fifty years on and much of this album seems slightly dated yet remains very much a part of this hugely successful band’s body of work.

041 | 28 MAY 2021

Flick the Dust Off | Robin and Barry Dransfield | The Rout of the Blues | Trailer LER 2011 | 1970

Presumably released in a time when people who produced LP records couldn’t really be bothered to type up the track list on the label, leaving instead a gaping space of nothingness, between the brand, the album title and the artist’s name(s), although the esteemed scribe Karl Dallas does a fine job with the sleeve notes.  The Rout of the Blues is the debut LP by the popular folk siblings from Harrogate, Robin and Barry Dransfield, who are pictured on the sleeve, apparently disorientated in a snowy forest, giving absolutely nothing away as to what to expect on the record itself.  Robin wears an Arthur Daley sheepskin coat while Barry sports the sort of sideburns popular at the time with the Thames Valley Police.  Although comprising a fine guitar player and fiddler respectively, the duo, who incidentally don’t Robin have a brother called Maurice to my knowledge, are noted for their sibling harmonies and inventive part singing, both explored throughout this album more so than their playing chops.   The duo had called it a day by the time I first came to their music, which was in the early 1980s, and so having missed them in their heyday, I had the brass nerve to seek out Robin’s contact details to plead with him to get back together with his brother for a show, but to no avail.  This was before I’d become acquainted with folk etiquette and was still in a state of brazen youthful forwardness.  He was lovely on the phone however, but I sensed the impossibility of the request.  Strangely, I’ve never been tempted to ring either Noel or Liam with a similar suggestion.  “The Trees They Do Grow High” is probably my favourite track.

Singled Out | Delaney and Bonnie | Comin’ Home | Atlantic 594308 | 1969

Recorded and released in 1969, “Comin’ Home” is a fine collaboration between the husband and wife duo Delaney and Bonnie Bramlett, together with an assortment of friends, notably the British guitarist Eric Clapton.  Clapton invited Delaney and Bonnie and Friends to join his then band Blind Faith while on tour during 1969 and allegedly found their band much more interesting than his own combo, which prompted him to quit Blind Faith in the same year.  A live album from this period was released later in the year, featuring a live version of this song.  “Comin’ Home”, a love song that describes homesickness and lovesickness, features some fine guitar sparring between Eric and Delaney, with some soaring and soulful vocals from both Delaney and Bonnie.  The single version was featured as the opening track to the Age of Atlantic sampler LP, released on the Atlantic label back in 1970, with D and B and Clapton sculpted in plasticine on the front cover along with fellow labelmates Yes, Led Zeppelin and Dr John.

Fifty Years Ago | Rod Stewart | Every Picture Tells a Story | Mercury 6338 063 | May 1971

In 1971 you couldn’t really move without hearing the sound of Rod Stewart’s “Maggie May” on the radio or on the TV, notably Top of the Pops, where he appeared to be enjoying a residency, occasionally kicking a ball around the studio, while John Peel sits on a stool pretending to play the mandolin.  The actual mandolin part was provided by Ray Jackson of Lindisfarne fame, though credited on the album sleeve as ‘the mandolin player in Lindisfarne, the name slips my mind’.  In hindsight, it’s hard to get past Rod’s later appearances on the same show attired in leopard skins or worse still, in posh suits while crooning the Great American Songbook, but once we erase these awful diversions from our respective memories, we might just remember that Rod Stewart was once an almost peerless rock and roll maverick.  Every Picture Tells a Story is Rod Stewart’s third solo album following hot on the heels of An Old Raincoat Won’t Ever Let You Down (1969) and Gasoline Alley (1970), both worthy albums, yet this one seems to have all the right ingredients for Stewart, which allows him to place his feet firmly in both rock and pop camps.  The rockers come over as good time stompers, notably “That’s All Right”, whilst “Mandolin Wind” just might be considered one of Rod’s finest moments, before our loyalty was put to the test with such awfulness as “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy?” and “Hot Legs”.

042 | 29 MAY 2021

Flick the Dust Off | Various Artists | Easy Rider Original Soundtrack | Stateside SSL5018 | 1969

In the late 1960s, a handful of films emerged that every self respecting rock fan would’ve been expected to see, even if some of those fans, including me, were far too young to actually get into the cinema to see them.  Monterey Pop was one, Woodstock another, then there was Alice’s Restaurant, Gimme Shelter, Blow Up and Performance, not to mention all of the Beatles films of course.  Another was Easy Rider, which was almost like a modern western, featuring hippie bikers on their Harleys, criss-crossing the country, effectively replacing cowboys on their horses.  Who could forget the opening sequence of this cult 1969 movie, with Steppenwolf performing Hoyt Axton’s atmospheric song “The Pusher”, as the camera gracefully navigates the contours of a bike’s gleaming polished chrome curves?  Without the film’s soundtrack though, there’s not really an awful lot of Easy Rider to write home about, unless you really do have a thing for motorbikes and long straight roads and the occasional iron bridge.  The Band’s classic song “The Weight” was used in the film, but due to licensing issues, their recording, which originally appeared on their debut LP Music From Big Pink couldn’t be used on this release, the song being replaced by a specially recorded version by an obscure band called Smith (it wasn’t Johnny Marr).  Other artists included were The Byrds, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, The Electric Prunes and The Fraternity of Man.  Bob Dylan was asked to contribute a couple of songs but refused; however he did write the opening line to “Ballad of Easy Rider” and then advised the filmmakers to give the song to Roger McGuinn, saying “he’ll know what to do with it”.  This British LP included all the songs from the American soundtrack but thankfully omitted the sprinkling of sound effects, including the rumbling of motorbikes.  After taking the future Mrs W to see the film sometime in 1977, I got down on one knee and did the deed, before Roger McGuinn had finished warbling “Ballad of Easy Rider” over the closing credits.  The outstanding songs include “The Pusher” and “Born to be Wild” courtesy of Steppenwolf, together with “If Six Was Nine” by Hendrix and “Wasn’t Born to Follow” by The Byrds. 

Singled Out | Pentangle | Light Flight | Transatlantic Big 128 | 1969

It seems that Pentangle’s “Light Flight” has always been with me from the beginning despite the fact that it was recorded in 1969, a clear twelve years after I first waddled into the world.  I vaguely recall the TV show Take Three Girls, for which the song appeared as the theme tune and I guess the infectious melody lodged itself in my subconscious for a couple of years until I found the song on the Basket of Light LP.  With writing credits going to all five prongs of the Pentangle, messers Jansch, Renbourn, Thompson, Cox and McShee, with a clear nod towards Dave Brubeck’s “Take Five”, it’s the Shel Talmy produced single that takes pride of place among some of my all time favourite discs.  Incidentally, whenever I trawl the singles bins in record shops, charity shops or car boot sales, if ever I see a 45 on the Transatlantic label, ninety-nine times out of a hundred its sadly “The Floral Dance” by the Brighouse and Rastrick Brass Band and hardly ever this surprisingly enough.

Fifty Years Ago | Joni Mitchell | Blue | Reprise K44128 | June 1971

It seems to be rather cool these days, though ‘cool’ is probably not the coolest of words to use, to cite one of a multitude of Joni Mitchell albums as one’s all time favourite; many say The Hissing of Summer Lawns, some say Court and Spark, others say Hejira, complete nut jobs say Mingus, but I guess it all comes down to personal taste in the end.  I’ve lived through dozens of end-of-year polls where the best album of all time has alternated between Revolver and Pet Sounds, depending on the era, when for years previously it had always been Sgt Pepper and nobody ever batted an eyelid.  I try not to be too snobbish about these things, but I have no qualms in placing Blue right up there at the very top; I’m a leopard thoroughly content with his spots.  I adore this album and it’s the only LP I’ve ever owned three consecutive copies of, plus the CD, which I haven’t managed to wear out yet, but there’s time.  I don’t know why I love it so much, in fact some of Joni’s vocal affectations, you know, that vibrato thing she does, can be a little irritating at times, but I could not be more grateful for having the good fortune to have been born in the era that produced Joni Mitchell.  Blue is now fifty.  Where have all those years gone? 

043 | 4 JUNE 2021

Flick the Dust Off | Marianne Faithfull | Marianne Faithfull | Decca LK 4689 | 1965

Recorded at Lansdowne Studios in London just as the city began to engage in its swinging period, the young Marianne Faithfull filled two sides of this platter with covers of songs from the pens of Jackie De Shannon, Bacharach and David, Lennon and McCartney and most notably Jagger, Richard and Oldham, Oldham being Andrew Loog Oldham, the Stones manager who claims to have discovered her.  “As Tears Go By”, the opening song on side two is actually the first song to be written by the Glimmer Twins, originally entitled “As Time Goes By”, but changed shortly afterwards to avoid a conflict with a song from a certain Bogart flick.  You must remember this?  The alluring cover shot was taken by the popular Sixties photographer David Bailey, which focuses on Marianne’s extraordinary youthful face.  The LP also features Marianne’s faithful reading of Tony Hatch’s “Down Town”, the Petula Clark hit, as well as the rather excellent “Plaisir D’Amour” performed in both French and English, together with The Beatles’ For Sale period “I’m a Loser”.  This is a record I play when I don’t want to be in the present day anymore, which is becoming increasingly often.

Singled Out | Atomic Rooster | Devil’s Answer | BC Records CB 157 | 1971

Although the LP was the main domain of British Prog Rock bands in the late Sixties and early Seventies, the 45rpm single format did provide some of the less stubborn bands with one or two lucrative hits.  The three-piece Atomic Rooster scored a couple of those hits, “Tomorrow Night” in January 1971 which reached number 11 and then again with “Devil’s Answer” in June of the same year which reached number 4, being the band’s biggest hit.  The band was led by former Crazy World of Arthur Brown keyboard player Vincent Crane and was notable for having drummer Carl Palmer in its ranks before he joined Keith Emerson and Greg Lake to form Emerson Lake and Palmer.  “Devil’s Answer” was recorded and released after Palmer’s departure with the new line up of Vincent Crane on keyboards, John du Cann on guitar and Paul Hammond on drums.

Fifty Years Ago | Fairport Convention | Angel Delight | Island ILPS9162 | June 1971

It’s easy for me to appreciate this line-up of Fairport Convention, despite many failing to see the point of the band without a Sandy Denny or indeed a Richard Thompson, simply because this is precisely the moment when their music first reached my ears.  This isn’t strictly true as I already had the band’s pre-Island track “If I Had a Ribbon Bow” on a Track sampler, Backtrack 2, where the early incarnation of the band was seen to rub shoulders with the likes of The Who, Jimi Hendrix, John’s Children and Thunderclap Newman.  The band was down to a four-piece by the time of Angel Delight, named after the pub where some members of the band lived, until it was partly demolished by a sleepy lorry driver one night, who came off the road and directly into Dave Swarbrick’s bedroom, destroying a recent haul of antique furniture that had been put in the place of Swarb’s bed only hours before, one of the few instances in the history of folk rock where antiques saved the life of one of it’s leading exponents.  The line-up of the three Daves, Swarbrick, Pegg, and Mattacks, together with the only remaining original member Simon Nicol, then put together Angel Delight, which became the biggest selling Fairport album to date, though it still remains almost insignificant at the side of Liege and Lief, Unhalfbricking or indeed Full House.  I still have a soft spot for this LP, which has the glossy sepia photograph glued to the gatefold sleeve, together with the follow up Babbacombe Lee, made by the same line up.

044 | 5 JUNE 2021

Flick the Dust Off | Peter Gabriel | Peter Gabriel | Charisma CDS4006 | 1977

I was among the many Genesis fans to find the news of Peter Gabriel’s departure in 1975 a little difficult to take.  I refused to give the new band a chance and spent the next few years deriding just about everything the band subsequently stood for.  Peter Gabriel was Genesis as far as I was concerned and I wasn’t prepared to take the thought of Phil Collins as the replacement frontman seriously.  After devouring The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway and Selling England by the Pound before it, the news just left me, and presumably many others, completely bereft.  After a couple of years, Gabriel returned with his debut solo LP simply entitled Peter Gabriel, the first of four consecutive LPs to bear the same name, each ultimately labelled according to their cover image; Car, Scratch, Melt and Security.  The Car LP was the first one, released in 1977, which maintained some of the same feel in places as The Lamb, which provided us all with something of a consolation.  The album also featured the cathartic “Solsbury Hill”, which was an attempt to explain why the singer left the band in the first place.  The single went on to reach number 13 in the UK charts in the same year.  It wasn’t until a couple of years later that I got to see Gabriel live, headlining the last night of the 1979 Reading Festival, for which much of this album was aired.

Singled Out | Traffic | Hole in My Shoe | Island WIP 6017 | 1967

In 1967, the entire rock and pop world seemed to be preoccupied with mind expanding experimentation, each following the lead created by the Beatles.  More and more the Indian sitar was to became a prominent feature on both singles and albums alike.  When Dave Mason presented “Hole in My Shoe” to his band Traffic, the rest of the band hated it, feeling it didn’t quite fit their musical agenda.  Adding to the weirdness of the song was the inclusion of a child’s voice reciting pretty hippy rhetoric, not unlike The Nice’s version of Leonard Bernstein’s “America” released around the same time.  In the case of “Hole in My Shoe”, the voice belonged to the step-daughter of Island boss Chris Blackwell.  Despite the mellotron, the flute, the sitar and some kid’s talk, “Hole in My Shoe” remained Traffic’s biggest selling single, which went on to reach number 2 in the UK singles charts.

Fifty Years Ago | Randy Newman | Live | Reprise K44151 | June 1971

This album appears to be all dressed up like a bootleg, one of those much sought after concert recordings they would cobble together and illegally produce on vinyl (before we called it vinyl), usually because the record label couldn’t be bothered to, or more importantly, that the powers that be deemed the recordings wildly inferior or indeed featuring an artist or band not specifically fully functioning.  The first bootleg I held in my hands was Led Zeppelin’s double set Live at Blueberry Hill, one of the first LPs I ever saw with coloured discs (one blue, one red), other than the first Curved Air LP that is.  Randy Newman’s Live album isn’t actually a bootleg though, but rather an official release through Warner Bros.  The album is noticeably short, coming in at under thirty minutes in total, half of the fourteen songs being under two minutes long and none reaching the expected three minute mark.  Made up mainly of songs originally released on Newman’s two previous releases, the LP also features five new songs, two of which would never see the light of day again on record.  Recorded at the Bitter End in New York over three days in 1970, the album was released in the May of the following year.

045 | 11 JUNE 2021

Flick the Dust Off | Tir Na Nog | A Tear and a Smile | Chrysalis CHR1006 | 1972

I reacquainted myself with this LP after being separated for 40 years.  In the days of swapping records with friends or with the man at the local ‘swap shop’, this LP drifted off for a while and aside from a copy of the subsequent CD release, it’s pretty much evaded rediscovery, until a visit to Music in the Green in Bakewell, where I managed to pick up the LP and return it to its rightful home.  I’m undecided whether Leo O’Kelly and Sonny Condell look very much relaxed on the gatefold sleeve, or positively alarmed, Condell looking particularly at home surrounded by all manner of early 1970s paraphernalia on the centre spread.  A Tear and a Smile was produced by Tony Cox (Caravan, Françoise Hardy, Family), and features contributions by Larry Steele on bass and Barry de Souza on drums with some fine string arrangements by Nick Harrison.  It has to be said, these songs always sound much better on a long playing record.

Singled Out | Stealers Wheel | Star | AM AMS7094 | 1973

In the 1970s I became a huge fan of the Scots band Stealers Wheel, which featured songwriters Joe Egan and Gerry Rafferty, the Paisley-born singer-songwriter who had previously enjoyed a stint playing with Billy Connolly in The Humblebums and who later came to prominence as a solo performer, scoring a smash hit with his song “Baker Street”.  Stealers Wheel had some success in the early Seventies, notably “Stuck in the Middle With You”, the Dylanesque classic that unfortunately found notoriety in a memorable scene from Quentin Tarrantino’s gritty heist-gone-wrong film Reservoir Dogs.  Stealers Wheel’s second album Ferguslie Park was produced by the American songwriting team of Leiber and Stoller, whose penchant for catchy tunes was legendary.  This standout song about anti-celebrity soon found its way onto both the British and American singles charts in 1973 and remains one of the band’s most radio friendly songs.

Fifty Years Ago | Stephen Stills | Stephen Stills 2 | Atlantic 2401013 | June 1971

The second album by Stephen Stills was released just seven months after his eponymous debut, both albums released on the Atlantic label.  Highly prolific at the time as a song writer, Stills had easily enough material accumulated for a double album, which had been the original plan, but was talked out of it by label boss Ahmet Ertegun.  Gathering together a number of notable musicians, including Nils Lofgren, Eric Clapton, Billy Preston, Dr. John, David Crosby and Jerry Garcia, notably for his pedal steel guitar on the album opener “Change Partners”, the album was recorded in Miami, some of the sessions taking place well into the early hours of the morning.  The LP is notable also for the presence of the Memphis Horns, which effectively brings an entirely different sound to Stills’ work, although there are one or two CSN moments, notably “Fishes and Scorpions”.  Two of the songs on this record were re-recorded for inclusion on later albums, the tender “Singin’ Call”, written for then love interest Rita Coolidge, appearing on Stills Alone (1991) and “Word Game” released on his album with The Rides (2013).  The one song left over from his previous tour with Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young is the soulful “Bluebird Revisited”, one of the songs from the band’s famous Woodstock appearance a couple of years earlier.

046 | 18 JUNE 2021

Flick the Dust Off | The Kinks | The Kinks Are The Village Green Preservation Society | Pye NPL 18233 | 1968

Over the years, ever since the Kinks dominated the British singles charts with one superb hit record after another, Ray Davies has taken on the role of the quintessential English pop poet laureate, producing a prolific repertoire of songs that capture the very spirit of Englishness, with songs that talk about leaky kitchen sinks, Sunday joints of bread and honey and rent collectors knocking at the door trying to get in.  The Kinks Are The Village Green Preservation Society captures the essence of these perceived lifestyles with a series of vignettes that not only celebrate all things English, but also lament the passing of time and the destruction of traditions.  Nostalgic at its core, the album not only marks the passing of an era but also the end of the original band, the LP being the last album to feature all four original members of Ray Davies, Dave Davies, Pete Quaife and Mick Avory.  “Do You Remember Walter?”, “Picture Book”, “Last of the Steam Powered Trains” and the title song stand out.

Singled Out | Dave Edmunds Rockpile | I Hear You Knocking | MAM 1 | 1970

I turned into a dreaded teenager in May 1970 and the leap from the age of 12 to 13 was life changing.  At the time I was unaware of how lucky I had been to live through the entire career span of The Beatles, from beginning to end, even though during those years the iconic band co-existed with the likes of Marmalade, Dave Dee Dozy Beaky Mick and Tich and The Scaffold, together with a whole shed load of variety entertainers whose records leaved a lot to be desired, Ken, Des, Val and the like.  The proverbial transistor radio under the bed covers was a reality for me, its antenna poking out from under the covers, attempting to keep up with the ebbs and flows of a pirate radio station out in the middle of the North Sea.  Towards the end of the 1960s, my musical tastes had begun to change and were indeed developing. I was already aware of some of the great rock acts of the day such as the Jimi Hendrix Experience, Cream and Led Zeppelin, all of whom up to this point would rarely be heard on the standard BBC radio station and almost never on the TV.  By 1970, the music I was turning to was finally getting some air play and the radio airwaves would be saturated with songs such as George Harrison’s “My Sweet Lord”, Simon and Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water” and by December, taking the much sought after Christmas Number One spot, it was Dave Edmunds Rockpile with this memorable cover of a 1955 Smiley Lewis hit.

Fifty Years Ago | Byrds | Byrdmaniax | CBS 64389 | June 1971

The tenth album by the Byrds and the second to feature the line-up of Roger McGuinn, Clarence White, Gene Parsons and Skip Battin after 1970’s UntitledByrdmaniax wasn’t at all well received, certainly not as critically and commercially successful as the band’s two previous albums, not was it liked by the band, the blame of which was placed squarely on producer Terry Melcher’s shoulders, for overdubbing strings and horns without the band’s knowledge.  “Kathleen’s Song” for instance, might be considered an otherwise pleasant song but for the strings which turns the song into something utterly bland.  There are one or two memorable moments though, not least the album closer, a cover of Jackson Browne’s yet to be released by it’s unknown author “Jamaica Say You Will”, the song that went on to open Browne’s debut album, featuring a fine vocal by Clarence White, who would be killed by a drunk driver a couple of years later.

047 | 25 JUNE 2021

Flick the Dust Off | Roxy Music | Roxy Music | Island ILPS 9200 | 1972

The misty annals of time have made it unclear as to the circumstances surrounding my first discovering Roxy Music in the early 1970s.  It was either hearing “Virginia Plain” on the radio, seeing the band perform on the Old Grey Whistle Test or as was common back then, hearing tracks over the sound system in my local record shop.  Although precisely when and where I first heard the band is unclear, my reaction was very clear indeed. I hadn’t heard anything quite like it before and I was suitable impressed, slightly bewildered and utterly transfixed.  Buying the LP soon followed and a brief love of the band ensued, only to give up on the band after their excursion into mainstream pop, Bryan Ferry’s cocktails and tuxedos and the departure of the band’s most enigmatic figure, Brian Eno.  These days, whenever I think of Roxy Music, it’s the old footage of these five strange looking men performing “Ladytron” on the Old Grey Whistle Test that always springs to mind.

Singled Out | McGuinness Flint | When I’m Dead and Gone | Capitol CL15662 | 1970

Although most of the music I was listening to in 1970 centred around the growing underground popularity of rock music with the emergence of such bands as Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Free and Wishbone Ash to name but a few, there was always room for bands with a strong acoustic sound.  Most of the singles that I was steadily collecting at the time had an acoustic guitar in there somewhere, and now and again the mandolin was included, bringing with it a more distinctive style.  Led Zeppelin were using acoustic guitars and mandolins as were the Faces.  When Manfred Mann’s Tom McGuinness and John Mayall’s Hughie Flint teamed up with songwriters Benny Gallagher and Graham Lyle, together with keyboard player Dennis Coulston, a new and very distinct acoustic sound was born with McGuinness Flint’s debut single, a song that would be frequently heard on the pop radio channels of the day, and a song that is still regularly played today.  

Fifty Years Ago | Emerson, Lake and Palmer | Tarkus | Island ILPS9155 | June 1971

The second studio album by Prog ‘supergroup’ Emerson, Lake and Palmer, opens with a side-long opus made up of seven individual parts, dove-tailed together to make up a twenty-minute single piece, with Greg Lake’s lyrics being inspired by William Neal’s cover artwork.  Neal’s half-armadillo, half-military vehicle battling it out with a manticore (later adopted as the name of the band’s own record label) was just the sort of thing that Prog was currently crying out for, though the whole thing made little sense in the end.  The second side returns to the standard shorter tracks, a mixture of throw away honky tonk tunes, riff-laden hard rock, one or two strong classical moments and concluding with a straight forward rock and roll number “Are You Ready Eddy”, presumably for engineer Eddy Offord.  Well received at the time, the album is remembered as a Prog landmark.

048 | 2 JULY 2021

Flick the Dust Off | Glencoe | Glencoe | Epic S EPC 65207 | 1972

The Top Rank on Silver Street in Doncaster had two entirely different identities in the late 1960s and early 1970s, three if you count the teenybopper Saturday morning extravaganza known as the Saturday Morning Dance Club, where you could hear some of the most abysmal chart hits imaginable by Dave Dee Dozy Beaky Mick and Tich, The Marmalade and Pickettywitch.  The popular night club had the usual Tamla Motown and Northern Soul-drenched weekends that were often packed to the rafters and always ended up with a punch-up around the back between rival mods, rockers, suede heads, skinheads or whatever other heads were about at the time.  However, the Top Rank was also home to the Prog Rock night on Mondays and also provided a venue for a long list of visiting bands.  Pink Floyd played at the venue, recreating “Alan’s Psychedelic Breakfast” onstage.  David Bowie played there twice during the Hunky Dory period.  One night three bands played, whose collective names added up to only eight letters; Yes, If and Egg.  The Edgar Broughton Band spat from the stage in pre-punk days, Mott the Hoople played on the rotating stage the same week “All the Young Dudes” entered the charts and I lost count of how many times I saw the Welsh hard rock band Budgie there.  Curved Air, Fairport Convention and even the Electric Light Orchestra showcased their eponymous LP there.  One or two bands came and went leaving only memories and the odd LP I managed to collect along the way.  One such band was Glencoe, featuring notable bassist Norman Watt-Roy, fresh out of The Greatest Show on Earth and prior to his work with Ian Dury and the Blockheads, whose self-titled debut LP I would listen to frequently back in the day. “Airport”, “Telephonia” and “Sinking Down a Well” remain favourites.

Singled Out | Family | The Weavers Answer | Reprise Records RS 27009 | 1970

Family was one of the rock bands of the late 1960s whose music came to me first and foremost through 45rpm singles, rather than the unaffordable albums of the time.  For a kid with a paper round and a hunger for records, the format suited me just fine until real life, real work and extra cash came along. I was lucky enough to have on my doorstep a couple of decent record stalls on Doncaster Market, where ex-jukebox records were quite plentiful and the choice eclectic.  “The Weavers Answer” was Family’s seventh single release and appeared as an EP under the title of Strange Band, named after one of the two songs that appeared on the B side, the other being “Hung Up Down”.  I remember buying the single immediately, not for the name of the band nor indeed the label, two important elements to any record purchases at the time, but because it had three songs on it rather than just the two.  A bargain.  Despite Roger Chapman’s voice being something of an acquired taste, the band soon became one of my own personal favourite bands at the time.  After seven years together and seven albums to show for it, the band disbanded in 1973 and “The Weavers Answer” became the final song that was played at their last gig.

Fifty Years Ago | The Allman Brothers Band | At the Fillmore East | Capricorn 2659 039 | July 1971

It’s really a testament to the Allman Brothers Band’s credentials as a first rate live outfit that their third album release should not only have been a live album, but a double live album at that.  Having already released two fine albums, their eponymous debut in 1969 and its follow up Idlewild South a year later, this third outing featured recordings made at the legendary Fillmore East in New York City on the 12 and 13 March 1971.  There’s just seven songs on the album, two of which, “You Don’t Love Me” and “Whipping Post”, take up an entire side each.  The cover epitomises the live album as we see Jim Marshall’s photo of the band stretched out in front of all their sound equipment, presumably around the back of the venue, with the crew treating themselves to a beer.  The album is considered one of the best live albums of the period, matching the reputation of The Who’s Live at Leeds and Humble Pie’s Performance, Rockin’ the Fillmore, recorded at the same venue a couple of months later.

049 | 3 JULY 2021

Flick the Dust Off | James Taylor | James Taylor | Apple SAPCOR 3 | 1968

Produced by Peter Asher, James Taylor’s first LP was released on the newly established Apple label, using some of the studio time already booked for The Beatles as they recorded tracks for what was to become the White Album, in fact both Paul McCartney and George Harrison contributed to this album.  Visiting London, the Boston-born singer songwriter found himself auditioning at The Beatles’ Saville Road office and was immediately signed to Apple and subsequently became the first non-British artist to release a record on the label.  Among one or two of the songs that would become familiar to James Taylor’s future repertoire, were one or two songs to feature orchestral arrangements by Richard Hewson, which sound a little dated now.  The album also features a song that may have inspired George Harrison’s best loved song, “Something in the Way She Moves”.

Singled Out | Argent | Hold Your Head Up | Epic S EPC 7786 | 1972

I was in my last year at secondary school when I first heard this single by Argent, after an extraordinarily brave DJ played it in between wall to wall Northern Soul records at the school dance.  Shortly afterwards, the song was frequently played on airwaves, the sound of the former Zombies’ keyboard player’s atmospheric Hammond B3 dominating the single, while songwriter Russ Ballard took the lead vocal.  “Hold Your Head Up” wasn’t the sort of record that would normally chart during this period, its highly infectious sound clearly borrowing from Progressive Rock, complete with a memorable rock riff throughout.  Though the band was at the time led by the strong partnership of Rod Argent and Russ Ballard, this song was actually written by the band’s bass player Chris White, whose pulsating bass dominates the song’s rhythm.  The single went on to sell over a million copies, a great achievement for a Prog song at the time and a song I will stop and listen to whenever it comes on the radio.

Fifty Years Ago | Isaac Hayes | Shaft | Stax 2369 007 | July 1971

In 1971, soul music was pretty much non-existent in my small collection of 45s and almost certainly bereft of such items on my LP shelves.  I was at the time a rock music nerd through and through and therefore soul music was avoided wholesale.  I was however a relatively small time fan of Isaac Hayes and already had a copy of the Isaac Hayes Movement LP, which featured an eleven minute version of the song “I Stand Accused”, which I couldn’t stop playing, especially late at night, possibly inspired by some of the blaxploitation movies I was seeing at the time.  Once the single “Theme From Shaft” hit the charts, I went in search of the album.  It was a double album and therefore out of my reach financially at the time and therefore I resolved to borrow it from a pal, who possibly didn’t quite realise the extent of the duration of this particular loan.  Once I did come up with the funds to buy my own copy, I returned the album to its rightful owner and proceeded to wear out my own copy.  Strangely, to this day, I’ve never seen the film.

050 | 4 JULY 2021

Flick the Dust Off | Cream | Goodbye Cream | Polydor 583053 | 1969

The first time I heard the opening riff of Cream’s “Sunshine of Your Love”, I knew my life would never be the same again.  I was at a school dance watching a local trio play the pop hits of the day.  The band played the opening bars of “Sunshine of Your Love” and I was immediately struck by the power of those descending notes, unbeknownst to me at the time, played by one Eric Clapton.  What I didn’t realise was the band that I had just fallen in love with were just in the process of calling it a day after just three years into their astonishingly successful career. Possibly rock’s first supergroup, Clapton along with Ginger Baker and the late Jack Bruce recorded their farewell album in 1968 and by the time the album was released, the band was no more, with each of the musicians going their separate ways.  The album was made up of both live and studio tracks.  Cream had by this time pretty much established their hard blues-based rock with such re-workings of blues classics as Robert Johnson’s “Crossroads Blues”, Skip James’ “I’m So Glad” and Willie Dixon’s “Spoonful”, but now and then the band surprised us, with such seemingly whimsical songs as the Jack Bruce and Pete Brown composition “Doing That Scrapyard Thing”.

Singled Out | Canned Heat | On the Road Again | Liberty LBF15090 | 1968

It’s all a little bit hazy really, but I’m sure the first time I became aware of the California-based blues band Canned Heat was when I heard my elder sister singing “Let’s Work Together” in the bathroom.  Shortly afterwards I would read articles in the music press about the band and I soon became familiar with the lead singer Bob Hite’s mountainous frame, otherwise known as The Bear – for obvious reasons.  The Bear can be seen bouncing about on the stage at Woodstock in some of the now familiar outtakes from DA Pennebaker’s iconic film.  A year before the Woodstock festival, the band released this single, which featured the band’s guitarist Alan Wilson providing the falsetto vocal.  A couple of years later Wilson was dead, his death being somewhat overshadowed a couple of weeks later by the death of Jimi Hendrix and four weeks after that, the death of Janis Joplin.  1970 had a lot to answer for.   

Fifty Years Ago | Deep Purple | Fireball | Harvest  SHVL793 | July 1971

Fireball sits on the shelf between two iconic rock albums of the period, Deep Purple in Rock, released in 1970 and Machine Head from 1972.  Sandwiched in the middle is the much weaker and less credible Fireball, which was not quite as fulfilling as either its predecessor or its successor, yet it did have one or two memorable moments, not least the title track, which starts with what was presumably aimed at being a fireball sound effect as the extra terrestrial object soars through the galaxy, though the actual effect is nothing more exciting than an air conditioner being switched on.  I saw the band during this period at the City Hall in Sheffield, with its most memorable line-up of Ian Gillan, Richie Blackmore, Jon Lord, Roger Glover and Ian Paice.  This album comes out rarely, yet it’s always good to hear the title track and “Demon’s Eye”.  “Strange Kind of Woman” is probably the most memorable track of the period, though it didn’t appear on the album originally, being released as a single instead.