27 MAY 2022

This Week’s Playlist:
Drowsy Sleeper – Gavin and Amy Davenport (A Boat of Promises)
A Sauce Too Far – Sheelanagig (Cirque Insomnia)
Willy Went to Westerdale – Bryony Griffith and Alice Jones (A Year Too Late and a Month Too Soon)
Stains – Maddie Morris (Purgatory)
Hunted – Maddie Morris (Purgatory)
Purgatory – Maddie Morris (Purgatory)
Doffin Mistress – Maddy Prior and June Tabor (Silly Sisters)
Autumn Almanac – The Kinks (Single)
Political Science – Randy Newman (Sail Away)
Wanton Lass Pity Her – Bryony Griffith and Alice Jones (A Year Too Late and a Month Too Soon)
My Johnny Was a Shoemaker – Bryony Griffith and Alice Jones (A Year Too Late and a Month Too Soon)
What is That Blood on Thy Shirt Sleeve – Bryony Griffith and Alice Jones (A Year Too Late and a Month Too Soon)
The Four Seasons – Sam Sweeney (Solo EP)
A Collier Lad – Bryony Griffith and Alice Jones (A Year Too Late and a Month Too Soon)
The Fox – The Drystones (Vulpus)

Featured Album: Bryony Griffith and Alice Jones – A Year Too Late and a Month Too Soon (Splid Records – 2022)

A Year Too Late and a Month Too Soon has Yorkshire written all over it, with a collection of songs that don’t necessarily originate from God’s own county, but are directly associated with it in the form presented here.  The two Yorkshire-born singers collaborate for the first time on this project, Bryony from Skelmanthorpe near Huddersfield in West Yorkshire and Alice from Ribbonden near Halifax in the Calderdale area of the county, both very much steeped in their own local traditions.  Their two voices compliment one another in the same manner that June Tabor and Maddy Prior’s voices worked together on the Silly Sisters albums a few decades ago.  Predominantly traditional, with informed arrangements by the two musicians, the songs are brought to life by a duo passionate about this broad repertoire.  Alice makes no apologies for her infatuation with Frank Kidson (or specifically Frank Kidson’s mind), a song collector examined in a previous collaboration with Pete Coe, the double CD collection The Search for Five Finger Frank, which featured a collection of twenty-seven songs and tunes.  Here Frank is remembered once again with a further handful of songs, along with songs collected by Mary and Nigel Hudleston, Frank and Grace Hinchcliffe and Bert Dobson among others, and notably the repertoire of John Greaves.   Both musicians are in fine voice throughout, notably on the haunting “What is that Blood on Thy Shirt Sleeve” and the sprightly opener “Wanton Lasses Pity Her”. Hopefully, this will not be a one off.

Flick the Dust Off: Silly Sisters – Silly Sisters (Chrysalis 1101 – 1976)

I first came across Maddy Prior and June Tabor’s collaborative LP Silly Sisters in the Sound and Vision department of Doncaster Central Library in the mid 1980s, a good ten years after the LP was first released.  Prior to this, folk music of this kind held little interest for me in the mid 1970s as Punk allegedly pushed Prog’s nose out of place.  By the mid-1980s though, even the New Wave began to sound spectacularly old and there was little on the radio to spark the slightest interest and so a five year period of tunnel-visioned commitment to the blues began to let in the songs and tunes of the British folk scene and a new adventure began.  Silly Sisters was one of the LPs around at the time that focused on songs, each treated to a strong arrangement and fine musicianship from the cream of the British and Irish folk music community, including Nic Jones, Martin Carthy, Andy Irvine and Tony Hall.

Singled Out: The Kinks – Autumn Almanac (PYE 7N.17405 – 1967)

The Kinks produced many great singles in the mid to late 1960s, any of which could be chosen for this series of Singled Out records.  After the early rock singles such as “You Really Got Me” and “All Day and All of the Night”, Ray Davies began writing social commentaries, with a more acoustic feel, which both reflected the times, the places and the mood of the 1960s, but with some degree of kitchen sink reality.  “Autumn Almanac” however, showed a more whimsical side to his writing, which seemed to parody the band in a sort of Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band fashion, complete with brass band and typically English sing-a-long midsection, with football on Saturdays, roast beef on Sundays and holidays in Blackpool.

Fifty Years Ago: Randy Newman – Sail Away (Reprise K44185 – MAY 1972)

When I first saw Randy Newman perform this song on the Old Grey Whistle Test, the singer resplendent in his Marc Bolan flowery shirt and wavy locks, I couldn’t quite believe my ears.  ‘Is he kidding?’ I would ask.  ‘He’s being ironic’ they would respond.  But Americans don’t do irony do they?  Randy Newman is the exception to the rule and much of his early work is loaded with humour, years before comedians would attempt to dissect Alanis Morissette songs.  Sail Away is perhaps Newman’s boldest statement, with a handful of memorable songs that are still remembered and performed fifty years on from its initial release.  Perhaps its success was due to the fact that several of the songs had already been released by other musicians, notably “Simon Smith and the Amazing Dancing Bear”, a hit for Alan Price five years earlier and “Dayton, Ohio – 1903” having been recorded by Billy J Kramer in 1969.  It wouldn’t stop there though, with Tom Jones warbling a fairly unconvincing “You Can Leave Your Hat On” for the 1997 film The Full Monty.  Randy Newman would go on to build a healthy career in film soundtracks.

20 MAY 2022

This Week’s Playlist:
Cowboy Man – Lyle Lovett (Lyle Lovett)
The Beginning of the End – The Pleasures (Single)
South of the City – Corner House (How Beautiful It’s Been)
Murphys – Eliza Niemi (Single)
Men Without War – Boo Hewerdine (Understudy)
Bumpers – Belshazzar’s Feast (That’s All Folkies)
Thousands are Sailing – Planxty (Words and Music)
A White Shade of Pale – Procol Harum (Single)
Rocket Man – Elton John (Honky Chateau)
Wish Her Well – Emma Wilson (Wish Her Well)
Mags’ 21st – Corner House (How Beautiful It’s Been)
What in the World – Ewan Macintyre (Single)
Odd State – Like Mint (I Wish I Was Awake)
Momma – Corner House (How Beautiful It’s Been)
Fifth of You – The Lucky Ones (Slow Dance, Square Dance, Barn Dance)

Featured Album: Corner House – How Beautiful It’s Been (Self Release – 2022)

With a line-up that consists of Orkney-born fiddler Louise Bichan, mandolinist Ethan Setiawan, cellist Casey Murray and guitarist Ethan Hawkins, the Boston, Massachusetts-based quartet take their influences to new and interesting places, with an engaging album that seamlessly pulls together several musical strands, from both the band’s Irish and Scottish roots, to their broad Appalachian and bluegrass influences.  The songs and tunes here are certainly roots music at their core, yet the album is almost effortlessly infused with a distinctively contemporary feel.  The band is joined in places by Jordan Perlson on drums, Viktor Krauss (Alison’s bro) on double bass and minimoog, Maeve Gilchrist on clarsach and Eli Crews on nose flute.  After the release of the band’s first single “Mags’ 21st”, which came with a certain sense of familiarity, although sounding refreshingly new at the same time,  the vibrant instrumental effectively opened the doors to what was to follow shortly afterwards, an album of musical exploration and ingenuity that you will want to play again and again.

Flick the Dust Off: Planxty – Words and Music (WEA 240101-1 – 1983)

Planxty was a band I first came across in the folk section of the rock press back in the early 1970s and therefore it instantly became a band I pretty much ignored until 1983, when Planxty reformed and released arguably their best album, coincidentally at a time when my folk buttons were being seriously pushed.  In one respect, Words and Music stands out due to the fact that it was the band’s final album before they called it a day for the second time, just after its release and then again, it just might stand out simply because it’s so good.  The band released six albums between 1973 and 1983, during their sporadic ten years together, when the core line-up consisted of Christy Moore, Andy Irvine, Dónal Lunny and Liam O’Flynn, being joined occasionally by the likes of Matt Molloy, Johnny Moynihan and Bill Whellan among others, even Paul Brady at one point.  Words and Music has a fairly democratic presence, with Christy Moore taking care of Dylan’s “I Pity the Poor Immigrant” and “Lord Baker”, while Andy Irvine provides the traditional “Thousands Are Sailing” and a stunning arrangement of Si Kahn’s haunting “Aragon Mill”, which features some superb uilleann piping courtesy of Liam O’Flynn during its instrumental prelude “Accidentals”.

Singled Out: Procol Harum – A Whiter Shade of Pale (Deram DM126 – 1967)

If the big question surrounding Procol Harum’s 1967 smash hit single “A Whiter Shade of Pale” was always along the lines of ‘what’s it all about then?’ – the short answer might possibly be, that it really doesn’t matter, certainly not for the band at any rate.  The songs’ bewildering lyrics helped give ther band their one and only number one smash, a song that went on to sell over ten million copies worldwide.  Basically written about a typical Swinging Sixties party, the song leans heavily towards Bach, while the mystifying lyric borrows from a variety of places, including Chaucer, party gossip and an obligatory girl leaves boy story.  None of this really matters as “A Whiter Shade of Pale” stands as a beautiful piece of psychedelia, its sole intention is perhaps to just wash over the listener, which in my case, it certainly does, and often, even fifty-five years on.

Fifty Years Ago: Elton John – Honky Chateau (DJM DJLPH 423 – May 1972)

This is album number five for the famed British singer songwriter, released in 1972.  Following on from the previous year’s Madman Across the Water and just ahead of 1973’s Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only the Piano Player, Honky Château boasts a couple of hit singles, the New Orleans influenced “Honky Cat” and perhaps one of Elton’s biggest numbers “Rocket Man (I Think It’s Going to be a Long Long Time)”, which would go on to be used as the title of the dismal 2019 biopic, albeit reduced to two words ditching the cumbersome subtitle.  The album was recorded at the Château d’Hérouville, an 18th century French château fifty miles north of Paris and is remembered for being the first of Elton John’s major worldwide hit albums.  Ed Caraeff’s cover shot shows a rare bearded singer, looking somewhat moody and comparatively restrained, giving little in the way of any advanced warning as to the flamboyant superstar he would shortly become.

13 MAY 2022

This Week’s Playlist:
I Ain’t Going To Drag My Feet No More – Richard Thompson (Across a Crowded Room)
The Edge of the Land – Katie Spencer (The Edge of the Land)
Over the Hill – Càrnan (Single)
Kitesurfing – Brian Willoughby (Twiddly Bits)
Souvenir – Pharis and Jason Romero (Single)
Waiting For A Train – Boz Scaggs (Boz Scaggs)
How Come – Ronnie Lane and Slim Chance (Single)
Orange Blossom Special – Flying Burrito Bros (Last of the Red Hot Burritos)
Rhododendron – Hurray for the Riff Raff (Life on Earth)
Bear’s Tune – Katie Spencer (The Edge of the Land)
In a Perfect World – Chuck Yoakum (Paisley Garden Project)
Louise – Rob Lear (Strange Days)
Breathe Easy – Last Inklings (Single)
Go Your Way – Katie Spencer (The Edge of the Land)
Wild Honey Inn – Alas the Sun (Wild Honey Inn)

Featured Album: Katie Spencer – The Edge of the Land (Lightship LR001 – 2022)

Somehow, it seems like half a lifetime since the release of Katie Spencer’s debut LP Weather Beaten, though it’s actually only a matter of three years, much of the ensuing months affected by enforced downtime, which perhaps makes it feel longer.  This second album has therefore come with a great deal of anticipation and we can immediately hear the extra attention to detail, the refinement of craft and the artistic control in the performances, which effectively transforms this young singer, songwriter and guitar player into a bone fide artist.   The Edge of the Land, evokes the terrain of Katie’s East Yorkshire home, as does its predecessor, with nature once again playing a key role in her music, offering solace in uncertain times.  Like witnessing one of Katie’s live performances, these songs comfort the listener with soothing acoustic sounds and graceful, meditative vocals, leaving no jagged edges, no intrusive cowbells or awkward and unnecessary tangents.  Katie found her voice some time ago and now it’s time for us to enjoy it.  The album opener “Take Your Time” has echoes of Happy/Sad period Tim Buckley, which demonstrates a confident command over jazz-tinged acoustic arrangements, while the opening few bars of “Roads” references Katie’s understanding of traditional folk tunes, something echoed later on the album with a pretty faithful reading of the Anne Briggs song “Go Your Way”.  You feel this is Katie’s time, and not too soon. 

Flick the Dust Off: Boz Scaggs – Boz Scaggs (Atlantic K40419 – 1971)

After leaving the Steve Miller Band, Boz Scaggs sought the assistance of his old friend Jann Wenner, editor of Rolling Stone Magazine, who helped secure a recording contract with Atlantic Records, the first release for the label being his eponymous second album, which could be described as a ‘blue-eyed soul classic’.  Following his actual debut LP simply entitled Boz, recorded in Sweden six years earlier, this second album was recorded at the Fame Studios in Muscle Shoals and was produced by Scaggs and Wenner, along with Marlin Greene, who employed some of the studio’s skilled session musicians, most notably slide guitarist Duane Allman, credited as Duane ‘Slydog’ Allman on the sleeve, whose contribution cannot be overstated.  The album is both gritty and deeply soulful, with a nod towards Scaggs’ country and blues roots, especially on such songs as Jimmie Rodgers’ “Waiting For a Train” and the twelve-minute blues workout, “Loan Me a Dime”.

Singled Out: Ronnie Lane and Slim Chance – How Come (Warner GMS011 – 1973)

Written by Ronnie (Plonk) Lane and Kevin Westlake, “How Come” is the debut single by the former Small Faces/Faces bassist, with his new band Slim Chance, which included within its ranks Benny Gallagher (accordion) and Graham Lyle (mandolin), who went on to enjoy a successful career as a duo in the 1970s.  Sounding strangely enough just like a Faces song, with Lane’s slightly Rod Stewart influenced vocal, the song soon became a recognised pop radio single throughout the year, reaching number 11 on the UK charts.  It goes without saying that Ronnie Lane left us far too early, where in the summer of 1997, the musician succumbed to pneumonia, after suffering from multiple sclerosis for many years.  His musical legacy is stuff of legend.

Fifty Years Ago: Flying Burrito Bros – Last of the Red Hot Burrito (A&M AMLS 64343 – 1972)

One of a bunch of American LPs I discovered in the cardboard box under the record player at a Pal’s flat back in the early 1970s, a box that also included a couple of Little Feat albums, several Todd Rundgren LPs and the odd Jackson Browne.  With Gram Parsons now pretty much out of the picture, the Flying Burrito Bros underwent several line-up changes, a few of which are illustrated on the inner gatefold sleeve with only Chris Hillman remaining from the original band.  The Last of the Red Hot Burritos is notable for its guest appearances, including Country Gazette’s Byron Berline on fiddle, helping out on one or two stomping bluegrass workouts, including the exhausting “Orange Blossom Special” and “Dixie Breakdown”, which also features Hillman’s soaring mandolin and Kenny Wertz’s informed banjo playing.  Though this was evidently marketed as the last of the Burritos, there was more to come later in the decade.  It was however the album that led me to the earlier albums, The Gilded Palace of Sin and Burrito Deluxe among others.

6 MAY 2022

This Week’s Playlist:
My Candy – Hot Club of Cow Town (Wild Kingdom)
The Star of Sweet Dundalk – Sarah Markey (Leaving Lurgangreen)
God’s Little Boy – Mama’s Broke (Narrow Line)
What a Beautiful City – Taj Mahal and Ry Cooder (Get on Board)
Nottamun Town – Shirley Collins and Davy Graham (Folk Roots New Routes)
Call Me Diamond – Mike Heron (Single)
Happy – Rolling Stones (Exile on Main Street)
The Ant and the Grasshopper – Nancy Kerr (The Poor Shall Wear the Crown)
Whiskey in the Jar – The Haar (Where Old Ghosts Meet)
Narrow Line – Mama’s Broke (Narrow Line)
L Ballade – Shawn Phillips (Contribution)
Wonderful – Kinnaris Quintet (This Too)

Flick the Dust Off: Shirley Collins and Davy Graham – Folk Roots New Routes (Decca LK4652 – 1964)

There’s something a little bit odd about the cover of this classic folk LP from 1965.  There’s an unusually large gap between the singer and the guitar player, a gap that turns into a chasm on the black and white studio picture on the reverse.  You get the feeling these two are not close, and by a good margin.  Strangely enough, the music also seems worlds apart; the quintessentially English female folk voice on the one hand and the super cool jazz inflected guitar on the other.  So why does it work so well?  Despite the LP eluding any notable success in sales upon its initial release, Folk Roots, New Routes soon became an enormous influence upon all the notable singers and musicians that followed, Collins being a major influence on Sandy Denny, Maddy Prior and Jacqui McShee, while Graham assumed God-like status for all the guitarists that followed, including Bert Jansch, John Renbourn and Jimmy Page just to name a few.

Singled Out: Mike Heron – Call Me Diamond (Island WIP6101 – 1971)

“Call Me Diamond” is the opening song on Mike Heron’s debut solo LP Smiling Men with Bad Reputations, released in 1971.  Still with the Incredible String Band at the time, Heron appears to stretch out musically once again, this time to explore a more rockier edge, with one or two soul-drenched moments.  The saxophone takes a hold from the start on “Call Me Diamond”, courtesy of South Africa’s Dudu Pukwana, which is enhanced further by one or two Fairporters, Dave Pegg on bass and Simon Nicol on guitar and Mike Kowalski on drums.  Heron delivers a surprisingly soulful Wilson Pickett vocal, revealing yet another side to Heron’s by then very familiar singing voice.  Some of this influence would appear in later Incredible String Band material as the Seventies wore on.   

Fifty Years Ago: Rolling Stones – Exile on Main Street (Rolling Stones Records COC 69100 – May 1972)

For the recording sessions of the Rolling Stones tenth album release, the band relocated to France, renting a villa in Nellcôte, while living abroad as tax exiles.  Exile on Main Street was released as a double LP set in 1972 and featured an array of musician friends such as Nicky Hopkins, Bobby Keys, Jim Price and Jimmy Miller with guest appearances by the likes of Billy Preston, Dr John, Al Perkins and Gram Parsons.  Despite lukewarm reviews at the time, the album has subsequently been regarded as one of the best albums the band has produced in its six decade existence.  At the time of its release, the NME put out a free flexidisc promoting some of the material on the album, with a specially recorded blues intro by Mick Jagger, which despite the poor quality of the sound, as was the case with cheaply produced flexi discs, I found myself playing it over and over at the time and it still resonates today.

29 APRIL 2022

This Week’s Playlist:
Mary Shelley – Hackensaw Boys (Hackensaw Boys)
Flatland Girl – Molly Tuttle and Golden Highway (Crooked Tree)
Sad City Sisters – Jethro Tull (The Zealot Gene)
Golden Eagle – Chris Brain (Bound to Rise)
Living Stone – Sierra Leone Refugee Allstars (Rise and Shine)
Morena Me Yaman – Lily Henley (Oras Dezaoradas)
Puppies – Incredible String Band (Wee Tam)
Jig a Jig – East of Eden (Single)
Blues Man – Stephen Stills (Manassas)
Death Letter – Son House (Forever on My Mind)
Side Saddle – Molly Tuttle and Golden Highway (Crooked Tree)
To Turn Away From You Now – Dietrich Strause (You and I Must Be Out of My Mind)
Union – Peter Knight and John Spiers (Both in a Tune)
Big Backyard- Molly Tuttle and Golden Highway (Crooked Tree)

Flick the Dust Off: Incredible String Band – Wee Tam (Elektra EKS74036 – 1968)

Getting to know the Incredible String Band’s recorded output came in a somewhat random order, from my first discovery of Mike Heron’s “Mercy, I Cry City” on an Elektra sampler LP to buying my first full length ISB LP Changing Horses from a second hand shop in Doncaster, then eventually to collecting the lot.  Both Wee Tam and The Big Huge came as two single American imports, though the two LPs were in fact released as a double album in the UK back in 1968.   This is the fourth album by the band, which offers a varied selection of songs and styles, with founders Robin Williamson and Mike Heron at the helm, together with sporadic appearances by girlfriends Rose Simpson and Licorice McKechnie.  I believe the cover shot was taken in Franz Zappa’s garden.

Singled Out: East of Eden – Jig-a-Jig (Deram DM297 – 1970)

I was completely indifferent to folk music in 1970 having just recently discovered Jimi Hendrix, Cream and Led Zeppelin.  It was pretty much wall to wall rock after finally putting aside my Monkees singles.  To me, folk music was The Spinners and The Corries and a little Yetties thrown in, or at least that’s just about all we heard on the radio at the time.  East of Eden’s “Jig-a-Jig” however, offered something a little more energetc and vibrant, with a few traditional dance tunes thrown together, a little along the lines of what Fairport Convention was up to at the time, bringing together traditional folk songs and melodies with a rock and roll beat, and doing a much better job of it, certainly on “A Sailor’s Life”, a feature of the Unhalfbricking album and then again on the Liege and Lief record, so this single was probably just considered a novelty item and not taken too seriously.

Fifty Years Ago: Stephen Stills – Manassas (Atlantic K60021 – April 1972)

Of the three members of the recently evaporated Crosby Stills and Nash team, Stephen Stills was the one to follow his rock instincts and focus on a more rock oriented sound, pretty much leaving the vocal harmonies behind and bringing the electric guitar back to the fore.  With barely an in-focus photo on this album sleeve, accompanying poster and inner sleeves, the double album set is bluesy in places, notably on “Jet Set (Sigh)”, and the acoustic closer “Blues Man”, a tribute to the recently departed Jimi Hendrix, Duane Allman and Canned Heat’s Al Wilson.  With each side bearing its own heading, The Raven, The Wilderness, Consider and Rock and Roll is Here to Stay, Manassas comes across as a bit of a mish-mash of ideas, with plenty of copuntry twang, bluesy grooves and moments of Gospel-drenched soul.

22 APRIL 2022

This Week’s Playlist:
So Long, Goodbye, We’re Through – Midnight Skyracer (Fire)
Good Enough – Molly Tuttle (Rise)
Wish You Were Here – Terry Emm (Single)
Roger O’Hehir – Planxty (The Woman I Loved So Well)
New Half Step – Cosmic American Derelicts (The Twain Shall Meet)
Pot Neuve/De La Flamme – Topette (Bourdon)
Louise – Plainsong (In Search of Amelia Earhart)
Martha’s Harbour – All About Eve (Single)
Southbound Train – Graham Nash David Crosby (Graham Nash David Crosby)
Letty’s Song – Possil Mor (Tales From the Garscube Road)
I Unveil a Peppercorn to See It Vanish – Sirom (The Liquified Throne of Simplicity)
Kindhearted Woman Blues – Robert Johnson (King of the Delta Blues Vol 1)
See You Again – Bonham Bullick (Single)
Lighthouse Keeper – Cosmic American Derelicts (The Twain Shall Meet)

Flick the Dust Off: Plainsong – In Search of Amelia Earhart (Elektra K42120 – 1972)

I first became aware of Plainsong through the ads in the UK music press back in the early 1970s.  After signing to Elektra in 1972, the newly formed band set about recording a fine debut album that we would still be talking about fifty years later.  Taking as its theme the story of the doomed adventurer Amelia Earhart, who disappeared during her attempt to circumnavigate the globe in 1937, In Search of Amelia Earhart was initially thought of as a concept album, yet on closer inspection, the links are tenuous.  There’s a healthy mix of originals and covers (before we used the irritating term ‘covers’ that is), including a Paul Siebel song (“Louise”), a Dave McEnery song (Amelia Earhart’s Last Flight”) and another by Jerry Yester and Judy Henske (“Raider”), which closes the album.  Perhaps the most noteworthy song on the record is Ian Matthews’ “True Story Of Amelia Earhart’s Last Flight”, which delves further into the rumour of Earhart’s espionage exploits.  Despite having a smash hit with a ‘cover’ of Joni Mitchell’s “Woodstock” with Matthews Southern Comfort, this album is arguably Matthews’ finest post Fairport achievement.

Singled Out: All About Eve – Martha’s Harbour (Mercury EVAN 8 – 1988)

There was always something otherworldly about Julianne Regan’s performance of “Martha’s Harbour”, All About Eve’s highest charting single from 1988.  Regan, who earlier played bass in the band Gene Loves Jezebel, probably never lived down the much repeated cock up on Top of the Pops, when the band couldn’t hear the pre-recorded tape they were meant to be miming to and therefore still sitting there motionless before a live audience waiting for their cue half way through the song.  Such was the bizarre stupidity of the BBC’s insistance of not being allowed to play live on the show.  Still, this moment, which is difficult to erase, doesn’t really alter the fact that “Martha’s Harbour” is an astonishingly good song.

Fifty Years Ago: Graham22 Apr 22 Nash David Crosby – Graham Nash – David Crosby (Atlantic K50011 – 1972)

Graham Nash David Crosby is the first album by the partnership of  Crosby and Nash, released on Atlantic Records in 1972, after the break up of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young a couple of years earlier, though both had already recorded and released solo albums by then, If I Could Only Remember My Name and Songs for Beginners respectively.  The album features several high profile contributions, notably Jerry Garcia, Phil Lesh and Bill Kreutzmann from the Grateful Dead, former Traffic guitarist Dave Mason and some of the best session musicians working on the West Coast, including Danny Kortchmar, Leland Sklar, and Russell Kunkel, who would go on to achieve much success with the likes of James Taylor, Carole King and Jackson Browne.  If some of the duo’s later work left a lot to be desired as the 1970s wore on into the Punk era, Graham Nash David Crosby remains one of the duo’s most commercially successful albums.

15 APRIL 2022

This Week’s Playlist:
Hot Rod Lincoln – Bill Kirchen (Stems and Seeds)
Clinch Mountain Backstep – Kentucky Colonels (Appalachian Swing)
Prisoner’s Song – Roland White (I Wasn’t Born to Rock ‘n Roll)
Bound to Rise – Chris Brain (Bound to Rise)
Nightingale – Anya Hinkle (Single)
Write Me a Few of Your Lines – Mississippi Fred McDowell (You Gotta Move)
Medley/All Fair Ladies/Spanish Galleon – Rupert Wates (For the People)
Kaatskill Serenade – David Bromberg Band (How Late’ll Ya Play Til)
Sunshine Superman – Donovan (Single)
Blowin’ Free – Wishbone Ash (Argus)
Sunday Morn – Chris Brain (Bound to Rise)
Into the Mystic – Wolf and Clover (Twelvemonth and a Day)
Beinn a’ Cheathaich – Ho-Ro (New Moon)
Flying on Time – Chris Brain (Bound to Rise)

Flick the Dust Off: David Bromberg Band – How Late’ll Ya Play Till (Fantasy FTSP53 – 1976)

I first became aware of Dave Bromberg’s music in the early 1980s, after hearing part of a set recorded at the 1982 Cambridge Folk Festival, which was aired on Jim Lloyd’s BBC folk show, whereupon the American musician invited Alistair Anderson up on stage for some instrumental wizardry.  I’d previously heard the name, mainly through his association with Bob Dylan and his contribution to some of his recordings, but his own music had eluded me up until that point.  Around the same time, I heard a couple of friends duet on “Kaatskill Serenade” at a Doncaster folk club, a Bromberg original from this album, which was probably the main reason for going out to buy it.  A double LP set, the album consists of a studio disc and a live one, which features such blues standards as “Sweet Home Chicago”, “Come in My Kitchen” and Blind Willie McTell’s “Dying Crapshooter’s Blues”.  The album also contains the entertaining sixteen minute “Bullfrog Blues”, which gives an indication of Bromberg’s rapport with his audience.  More recently I was backstage at the Cambridge Folk Festival with both Bromberg and Loudon Wainwright having a relaxed chat; it was the closest I ever got to breaking the rules and taking out my camera for a quickie.

Singled Out: Donovan – Sunshine Superman (Pye 7N- 1724I – 1966)

I like Donovan.  There, I said it, which isn’t usually a cool thing to admit to.  I think most of the people who don’t particularly take to him have their judgment clouded by continually comparing him to Dylan.  I have never compared him to Dylan, despite all the nonsense surrounding his appearance in the Pennebaker film Don’t Look Back.  I think of Donovan as a pop singer, who made some of the most melodic and tuneful pop hits of the mid to late 1960s, “Sunshine Superman” chief among them.  Perhaps I don’t go out of my way to catch any of Donovan’s concerts these days, nor is it common to see Cosmic Wheels or Essence to Essence on the turntable, but any of the late 60s singles on the jukebox will do for me any day of the week.

Fifty Years Ago: Wishbone Ash – Argus (MCA – April 1972)

Rock journalists seem to frown upon any mention of the name Wishbone Ash, yet I make no apologies for admiring this band, which I first heard on the John Peel radio show in 1970, when the noted arbitor of taste played the memorable guitar riff of “Lady Whiskey”.   A couple of years later, this admiration grew after hearing the band’s third album Argus, which soon became something of a ‘must have’ item back in the early 1970s, an album chock full of highly melodic rock classics that would continue to make up the bulk of any Wishbone Ash gig for years to come, some of which I was only too pleased to attend, whichever Wishbone Ash I happened to come across that is.  Fall outs, lawsuits, whatever, there is still no sound quite like it, though my personal preference will always be for the band’s first four albums, this being perhaps the band’s crowning achievement.  I once sat down with Martin Turner, for an hour of reminiscing, which was both enlightening and much fun.  It was rather like interviewing the Artful Dodger. 

8 APRIL 2022

This Week’s Playlist:
Let Me Roll – Roving Crows (Awaken)
Sunflower – Beau Jennings and the Tigers (Heavy Light)
The Blackest Crow – Kevin Buckley (Big Spring)
Mags 21st – Corner House (Single)
Moon Far Away – Justin Golden (Hard Times and a Woman)
Me and My Chauffeur Blues – Memphis Minnie (Complete Recorded Works Vol 5)
Split Part Two – Groundhogs (Split)
Heroes and Villains – Beach Boys (Single)
City of New Orleans – Arlo Guthrie (Hobo’s Lullaby)
Sweeney’s Wheel – Kevin Buckley (Big Spring)
Spring Song – Seonaid Aitken Ensemble (Chasing Sakura)
Days Can Last Forever – Michael Lane (Single)
Full Moon Friend – John Calvin Abney (Single)
Would the Minister Not Dance – Face the West (Single)

Flick the Dust Off: Groundhogs – Split (Liberty LBG83401 – 1971)

In 1970, as I prepared to embark on my predictably troubled teenage years, my record collection was still very much in its infancy.  I was already showing dissatisfaction with the music that infiltrated the pop charts, being not in the least bit concerned about where love actually grows, despite Edison Lighthouse’s eagerness to tell me.  If a record by Lee Marvin could get to the number one spot, there was no further hope as far as I was concerned, a notion exacerbated further by Clint Eastwood talking to the trees on the other side.  The rock world beckoned and with a little help from my older sister, more specifically, the hippie boyfriends she brought home, my ears began to let in the good stuff.  I first heard the sound of the three-piece blues outfit Groundhogs at the Monday Prog Rock night at the Top Rank in Doncaster, where the confused DJs would always manage to slip in the odd blues number.  “Split – Part 2” was one of the mainstays of the playlist during these nights and it wasn’t long before the record joined my collection.  I’m sure neither guitarist Tony McPhee, bassist Peter Cruikshank or drummer Ken Pustelnik considered themselves anything other than a blues band, nevertheless, their music seemed to fit in well at the Rank every Monday night.  According to McPhee, the lyrics for this album were inspired by a panic attack he experienced back in 1970.  The album also features probably the band’s best known track “Cherry Red”.

Singled Out: The Beach Boys – Heroes and Villains (Capitol Records CL 15510 – 1967)

During the early part of the 1960s, The Beach Boys cornered the market when it came to recording Chuck Berry-styled rock and roll songs with a surfing theme and would become one of the world’s finest vocal bands, with their inimitable sibling harmonies.  As the decade progressed though, the band, led by the workaholic Brian Wilson, sought to rival The Beatles with their attention to detail and pursuit of discovering new sounds and styles using the studio as their main tool.  “Good Vibrations” opened up the doors for adventure with a song that was not only adventurous but also completely accessible in the current pop market.  These experiments continued with the help of Van Dyke Parks on the follow up single “Heroes and Villains”, which was intended to appear on the band’s next album Smile.  Although the album was put on indefinite hold, the song was released as a single and then appeared on the band’s next album Smiley Smile instead.  I spent many hours trying to work out Brian Wilson’s genius vocal arrangements on this hugely experimental single.  I’m still none the wiser.

Fifty Years Ago: Arlo Guthrie – Hobo’s Lullaby (Reprise MS2060 – April 1972)

Completely accessible country-inflected fourth album courtesy of Arlo Guthrie.  Only a couple of years earlier, a stoned Guthrie got up on a dodgy looking stage in Bethel, upstate New York, to tell the audience that everything was ‘far out’ and that he had been rapping to the fuzz and that New York Thruway was closed (man).  Woody Guthrie’s hippy son was always a charismatic counter culture figure, largely due to his starring role in Arthur Penn’s screen adaptation of Guthrie’s engaging Alice’s Restaurant story, despite his almost unintelligible rapport with the masses at the most iconic of all festivals.  For Hobo’s Lullaby, Guthrie surrounds himself with the cream of session men, including Byron Berline, Ry Cooder, Doug Dillard, Richie Hayward, Jim Keltner, Spooner Oldham and Clarence White among them, together with Linda Ronstadt adding further vocals.  Predominantly covers, the songs include material from the pens of Bob Dylan “When My Ship Comes In”, Hoyt Axton’s “Somebody Turned the Light On”, Guthrie Snr’s “1913 Massacre” and most notably Steve Goodman’s “City of New Orleans”, Guthrie’s only hit record, presumably due to Goodman’s radio friendly feel good lyric ‘Good morning, America, how are ya?  Strange to think this is now fifty years old.

1 APRIL 2022

This Week’s Playlist:
Fever Dream – JT and the Clouds (Caledonia)
Twilight – Jesper Lindell (Twilights)
Fair and Tender Ladies – Bella Gaffney ft Sam Kelly (Single)
Western Tidal Swell – Iona Lane (Hallival)
Randolph Scott – Plainsong (The Folk Fairport Concert)
Light is in the Horizon Yet – Eddi Reader (Single)
So Long – Vinegar Joe (Rock ‘n Roll Gypsies)
Illegal Smile – John Prine (Single)
The Old Changing Way – Richard Thompson (Henry the Human Fly)
Lopsided – Ben and Dom (Shoulder)
There Isn’t a Book – Abigail Pryde (Single)
Mary Anning – Iona Lane (Hallival)
These Four Walls – Awkward Family Portraits (Dear Old West)

Flick the Dust Off: Vinegar Joe – Rock ‘n Roll Gypsies (Island ILPS9214 – 1972)

When the jazz/blues outfit Dada first came to my attention back in 1970, when a track from the band’s debut album appeared on the Age of Atlantic sampler album, I would have been completely unaware of Elkie Brooks, who wouldn’t pop up on my radar until the band morphed into Vinegar Joe shortly after the arrival of Robert Palmer to their ranks.  The cover of Vinegar Joe’s debut self-titled album was illustrated in plasticine in a similar fashion to the aforementioned sampler album.  A short lived band, Vinegar Joe launched the careers of both Brooks and Palmer who both went on to enjoy successful careers, yet neither musician ever really demonstrated the raw, almost feral stage presence of Vinegar Joe’s early days, opting for a more MOR image, certainly in the case of Brooks.  Released under the watchful eye of Ahmet Ertegun in the US (Atlantic) and Chris Blackwell in the UK and elsewhere (Island), Vinegar Joe’s brief blip on the radar remains memorable, as does the lively cover artwork, a rare live shots only Hipgnosis design.

Singled Out: John Prine – Illegal Smile (Atlantic K 10530 – 1972)

I first became aware of John Prine in the early 1970s when I heard the song “Sam Stone” on the Old Grey Whistle Test, accompanied by a poignant black and white promo film.  The song was included on the 1972 sampler album The New Age of Atlantic, along with such diverse acts as Loudon Wainwright III, Buffalo Springfield and Led Zeppelin. The song first appeared however on Prine’s self-titled debut LP from the year before.  It was this particular song that led to the discovery of other great songs such as “Angel From Montgomery”, “Paradise” and “Hello in There” as well as the opening song “Illegal Smile”, which was subsequently released as a single on the Atlantic record label, backed with “Quiet Man” from the same album.  Contrary to popular belief, according to Prine, the song is not about substance abuse, but has more to do with smiling at things that others don’t necessarily normally smile at.

Fifty Years Ago: Richard Thompson – Henry the Human Fly (Island ILPS9197 – April 1972)

I didn’t get around to Henry the Human Fly or for that matter, any Richard Thompson album until the early 1980s, having an aversion to Thompson’s voice; it was one of the longest periods of taste acquisition known to man.  Despite this blatant refusal to accept the voice, I couldn’t avoid the fact that what we had in Thompson, was a superb guitar player and an equally superb songwriter, whose involvement with Fairport Convention couldn’t possibly be ignored.  I would therefore return to Thompson’s solo albums and the albums he made with his then wife and musical partner Linda, to try and break through my own musical prejudices.  I think it’s the only time I have really made an effort to come to terms with a voice I don’t particularly enjoy. Once Thompson’s voice slipped within my own personal taste parameters though, possibly midway through Hand of Kindness, there was no turning back.  I borrowed Henry from a friend and then worked my way in.  Over the next fifty years, or at least from the mid-1980s onwards, I have worked my way through all of Thompson’s albums and have grown to love his voice as well as his writing and his musicianship, and I still pop Henry onto the turntable every now and then to remind me of just how important this musician is to music appreciation.  He rarely, if ever, lets me down, even when he does Britney.

25 MARCH 2022

Flick the Dust Off: Seatrain – Watch (Warner Brothers K46222 – 1973)

The fourth and final album by the Californian roots fusion band, a band to have previously boasted within its ranks both Peter Rowan and Richard Greene, sees Seatrain transformed into something entirely different.  The LP was languishing in the bargain bin at Bradley’s Records in Doncaster in 1973 and I began to feel sorry for it.  It might have been the unappealing cover art together with the six strange looking mustachioed musicians on the reverse that might very well have scared possible buyers off.  Nonetheless, something obviously caught my attention and made me want to take it home and care for it, something I continue to do all these years on.  The LP features a rather tight version of Bob Dylan’s “Watching the River Flow”, together with a strange little ghost story, a delightful song from the pen of Andy Kulberg called “Scratch”.  Fortunately, despite its cheap price tag, this was the only scratch on it.

Singled Out: The Lovin’ Spoonful – Daydream (Pye 7N25361 – 1966)

I am not sure when or where I first heard the Lovin’ Spoonful’s “Daydream”, but I would guess sometime in the mid to late 1960s and no doubt on the radio.  The song caught my attention at a time when any song with a whistling coda seemed to appeal to me.  I was at the time myself a daydreaming schoolboy with an irritating habit of whistling along to Richard Tauber songs.  I recall the John Sebastian song being played around the house at various intervals, bringing a spark of joy to an otherwise black and white suburban kitchen sink drama known as real life in the West Riding of Yorkshire in the mid Sixties.  The 45 was probably brought into the house by my hippie sister, when all her boyfriends seemed to look like flower children and smelled of Patchouli Oil.  John Sebastian would later embarrass himself before half a million people at the Woodstock Festival, where he walked out on stage looking like he had been vomited on.

Fifty Years Ago: Humble Pie – Smokin’ (A&M AMLS64342 – March 1972)

‘Roll with me’ Steve Marriott suggests from the start, before launching into the steamy “Hot ‘n’ Nasty”, the opening song on the band’s fifth studio album Smokin’, which came along hot on the tail of the band’s blistering double live set, Performance: Rockin’ the Fillmore, recorded in the summer of the previous year at the prestigious Fillmore East in New York City.  Between the release of the live album and the recording sessions for Smokin’, Peter Frampton had left the band to pursue a solo career, a successful one for a while, being replaced by Clem Clempson on guitar.  The album also featured one or two guests, not least Alexis Korner on “Old Time Feelin’” and Stephen Stills on Hammond organ and backing vocals on “Hot ‘n’ Nasty”, together with further vocals courtesy of Doris Troy and Madeline Bell.  Fifty years and it doesn’t feel in the slightest bit dated.

18 MARCH 2022

Flick the Dust Off: Dick Gaughan – Handful of Earth (Topic 12TS419 – 1981)

After the Prog Rock years, a hardcore Blues period and an initial flirtation with Folk Rock back in the 1970s, along came the 1980s.  John Lennon was dead, the guitar was growing impatient for an audience and I was about ready to investigate the strange world of the folk club.  I located the most local radio station that I could find that boasted having a folk show, which happened to be Bob Hazelwood’s weekly show on Radio Sheffield in this case and it was there that I first heard the opening few bars of Dick Gaughan’s take on an old traditional ballad “Erin-Go-Bragh”.  Shortly afterwards I found myself at another folk club held at the Rockingham Arms in Wentworth, near Rotherham, making small talk with a wide-jawed Scotsman as I waited for show to begin, only to discover half an hour later that I had in fact been chatting to the man I’d heard for the first time on the radio the week before.  I realised at that moment that I had discovered Dick Gaughan and Handful of Earth became a firm favourite LP and it changed the way I think about traditional folk songs and is one of the reasons I still listen to it.

Singled Out: Stealers Wheel – Everything’l Turn Out Fine (AM AMS7079 – 1973)

Stealers Wheel was a Scots band formed in 1972 in Paisley, by former school friends Joe Egan and Gerry Rafferty and initially had within its ranks Rab Noakes, Roger Brown and Ian Campbell, although by the time the band signed a record deal with A&M Records, those three had left.  Rafferty soon followed, leaving Luther Grosvenor to deputise and pretty much leaving Joe Egan at the helm.  The band’s initial couple of albums were produced by the famed American songwriting team of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller.  Rafferty returned to the fold for the band’s second album Ferguslie Park, which included two follow up singles to the earlier “Stuck in the Middle”, the highly memorable “Star”, written by Egan and “Everything’l Turn Out Fine”, co-written with Rafferty.  Strangely, despite many good songs,  Steelers Wheel are perhaps defined by “Stuck in the Middle”, presumably due to its appearance in a pivotal moment in Tarrantino’s Reservoir Dogs.

Fifty Years Ago: Jethro Tull – Thick as a Brick (Chrysalis CHR 1003 – March 1972)

For unapologetic fans of Jethro Tull, Thick as a Brick was the eagerly awaited release after the acclaimed Aqualung, released twelve months earlier.  With tongues firmly in cheeks, the band deliberately spoofed up the very concept of concept albums, emphasising Prog’s penchant for over-long magnum opus-like productions, simply by reducing the set list to just the one song, albeit split in two for the purpose of the LP format.  Had the CD been around in 1972, God only knows how long these tunes would stretch.  Wrapped in a twelve-page tabloid, Thick as a Brick was a Folk Prog album that didn’t take itself too seriously, its content being an adaptation of an epic poem by a fictional eight-year-old genius by the name of Gerald Bostock, albeit channelled through the pen of Tull frontman, Ian Anderson. To this day, my Fluffy the Duck dots have been left un-joined and will probably remain so.

11 MARCH 2022

Flick the Dust Off: Ry Cooder – Get Rhythm (Warner Bros WX121 – 1987)

Back in 1987, it seemed like we had endured a rather long wait for Ry Cooder’s latest solo album, a good five years since his previous release, The Slide Area of 1982, but not quite as long as the wait until his next, Chávez Ravine, which wouldn’t appear for a good eighteen years after Get Rhythm.  The album is a veritable mish-mash of styles, and as the title suggests, Get Rhythm is packed with an assortment of differing rhythmic textures, such as the opening title song, written by Johnny Cash and featuring Cooder’s old sparring partner Flaco Jiminez, on accordion, to the quirky acoustic bottleneck guitar of Chuck Berry’s “13 Question Method”, which sounds as fresh today as it did back in 1987, when it was spun regularly on my weekly hospital radio show.  There’s also some tongue-in-cheek moments such as the sneering “I Can Tell By the Way You Smell” and the fun-filled “Women Will Rule the World”, from the pen of Raymond Quevedo, the noted Calypsonian from Trinidad.

Singled Out: Canned Heat – Going Up the Country (Liberty LBF15169 – 1968)

Memorably played at the infamous Woodstock festival in 1969 and then used both in the film and the original soundtrack that followed, Al Wilson’s “Going Up the Country” was Canned Heat’s fifth single release, one of three singles released by the band in 1968, which just scraped into the UK top twenty.  Though credited to the band’s guitarist Al Wilson, the song was adapted from an early blues song by the Texas bluesman Henry Thomas, which was first released way back in 1928.  The song is perhaps best known for Jim Horn’s flute flurries, which gives the song a distinct folky feel, which in turn fits perfectly with Wilson’s trademark fragile vocal.

Fifty Years Ago: Deep Purple – Machine Head (Purple TPSA7504 – March 1972)

When Deep Purple’s Machine Head tour rolled into town on 28 September 1972, I had my chin on the edge of a vibrating Sheffield City Hall stage, while I waited, with eager anticipation, for the band to come on stage.  Those behind me grew steadily more impatient, with several calls for “Wally” and one or two sharp digs in the back from those who wanted to take my prime place.  The album had been released six months earlier, giving me plenty of time to acclimatise myself to such songs as “Highway Star”, “Space Truckin’” and the mighty “Smoke on the Water”, which not only has one of the best guitar riffs in rock music, but also name checks Frank Zappa and the Mothers, when nothing else in the Top 40 did.  When the band appeared, my chin left the stage and I became possessed for the next hour or so as the band, which at the time included Ritchie Blackmore, Ian Gillan, Roger Glover, Jon Lord and Ian Paice, chucked out the best of the Machine Head album, one or two from both Fireball and Deep Purple in Rock and a couple of notable singles.  The most memorable moment for me though, was when Jon Lord reached for the bottle of Guinness standing on top of his organ, took a swig then reached down to give me the bottle.  I was fifteen, fearless and flattered as Jon Lord gave alcohol to a minor.  When Jon died in 2012, part of my youth also died with him.

25 FEBRUARY 2022

Flick the Dust Off: Martin Simpson – Grinning in Your Face (Topic 12TS430 – 1983)

From the late 1970s until the early 1980s, I had been tinkering with some of the blues guitar styles I obsessively learned from my small collection of Brownie McGhee and Big Bill Broonzy records.  I read Paul Oliver books by day, played the guitar in the evening, dreamed of being a blind blues singer from the Mississippi Delta through the night and then discovered Martin Simpson, who everything changed.  I didn’t immediately set fire to my guitar, but instead, went in search of some of the folk clubs iun my area, the most likely place to find this young guitar player from Scunny, which was just up the road from where I lived.   It didn’t take long to find him.  The first time I saw him was at the Rockingham Arms in Wentworth where he played a green guitar, which he referred to as his Fender Snot-ocaster.  I then saw him with June Tabor, then with an American singer who I recall having a gigantic tattoo covering her entire back.  This was a new world for me.  I wanted so badly to be able to do this myself and so I listened to Martin’s version of Peter Gabriel’s “Biko” several hundred times before having the audacity to enter my first folk club at The Three Horse Shoes in Doncaster to play it.  It was the second song I ever played in a folk club.  It was ambitious and I do remember getting my fingers all tangled up in the middle of it, but at least I tried.  Many years passed and I’ve now seen literally dozens of performances by Simpson, but I still think of Grinning in Your Face as the defining moment for me personally.  I now see Mr Simpson occasionally in Sheffield who chats to me like an old mate.  Funny how these things happen.

Singled Out: Cat Stevens – Matthew And Son (Deram DM110 – 1966)

With a title based on the name of his own tailor, Henry Matthews, the single “Matthew and Son” was one of Cat Stevens’ most recognisable hits of the 1960s.  With a strong social commentary running through it, based in no small part on the fact that his current girlfriend at the time was working long hours in a large firm, which was then considered almost like slave labour, the message in the song rang clear to a young working class audience, who helped the single race up the British charts in 1967, eventually reaching number two.  Although Cat Stevens went on to record a string of singer-songwriter based albums more suitable for bedsit audiences up and down the country and further afield, it was this pop hit, a contemporary of the kind of songs the Kinks were known for, that set the young songwriter on the path to success.  I distinctly remember the song being played regularly at Doncaster Top Rank every Saturday morning when the night club opened its doors to screaming kids, along with hits by Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick and Tich.

Fifty Years Ago: Nick Drake – Pink Moon (Island ILPS9184 – February 1972)

Nick Drake’s third and final album is memorable for several reasons, most notably for being extremely short, by today’s standard it would probably be considered an EP or a mini album at best.  It’s also noted for being almost entirely made up of one voice, one guitar with the exception of a few piano keystrokes on the title cut, whereas its predecessors Five Leaves Left and Bryter Layter involved guest musicians and a much thicker sound.  Nick Drake’s days were numbered when he allegedly dropped the master off in a plastic bag at the Island office, something that has been subsequently contested by those in the know.  Most of the eleven songs on Pink Moon are short, the exception being “Things Behind the Sun” which stretches to almost four minutes.  It’s also reported that there was another song on the original master that didn’t quite make the cut, an instrumental version of “Plaisir d’amour” a French love song written in 1784 by Jean-Paul-Égide Martini, which had it been included, would have been the only non-original composition to appear on any of the three official album releases in his short career.  With Drake’s subsequent re-evaluation amongst a younger audience, it’s hard to believe that Pink Moon, along with the other two LPs, were all but ignored back in the day.

11 FEBRUARY 2022

Flick the Dust Off: Amazing Blondel – Fantasia Lindum (Island ILPS 9156 – 1971)

There have been at least three distinctive Blondel periods in my life, first the initial discovery of the band back in 1972, then the re-discovery around 1979 and then finally the re-re-discovery, when the original trio reformed for a handful of gigs.  The first of these discoveries occurred in the early 1970s when I found the band’s fourth LP England languishing in Ken’s Swap Shop on St Sepulchre gate in Doncaster, a second hand shop that always seemed to stock interesting cast offs.  I thought the three musicians looked the coolest on the planet, despite their strong inclination for period costumes on their album sleeves.  The re-discovery occurred just after I moved into my first house with my new wife, where I soon discovered that our next door neighbour was also a big Blondel fan, who had four of the band’s LPs.  We competed to see who could play “Seascape” the loudest through the walls.  I subsequently discovered all the band’s albums and soon found myself seeking out all the rarities as well.  The final re-re-discovery was when the original trio of John Gladwin, Eddie Baird and Terry Wincott reformed to play a few gigs in the late 1990s and I was finally able to see the band for the first time live on several occasions.  Fantasia Lindum includes one of the band’s most impressive moments in the “Fantasia Lindum Suite”, which takes up the entire first side, culminating in the heart stopping vocal crescendo of “Celestial Light”.  Simply gorgeous.

Singled Out: Fleetwood Mac – Man of the World (DJM DJS 620 – 1969)

After the success of such records as “Black Magic Woman”, “Need Your Love So Bad” and the band’s first number one single “Albatross”, signs began to emerge that the band might be in trouble, with the release of this delicate and mournful ballad, which demonstrates a more fragile side of singer/guitarist Peter Green.  Things were indeed going pear-shaped for the band, which eventually saw Green’s withdrawal from the public eye, and also the disappearance of Jeremy Spencer, who on a visit to the States, apparently went out to buy a magazine and never came back, having joined a religious cult.  It was during these years of personal difficulties that led to the eventual transition from one of the UK’s leading blues bands to one of the world’s most prominent stadium rock bands, leaving their blues roots behind in favour of a more West Coast soft rock sound, now familiar to many from their later albums.  “Man of the World” remains one of the band’s saddest ballads ever released.

Fifty Years Ago: Allman Brothers Band – Eat a Peach (Capricorn 2CP 0102 – February 1972)

My initial introduction to the Allman Brothers Band came by way of two memorable sampler LPs from the early 1970s, two records released on two different labels, “Black Hearted Woman” on Atlantic’s Age of Atlantic and “Stand Back” on the Warner Bros release, Fruity, released on one of the few ill-conceived and highly impractical circular sleeves (they roll off the shelf).  The latter song is included on the band’s double LP set Eat a Peach, an album made up of both studio and live takes.  Three months prior to the release of the album, Duane Allman was killed in a motorcycle accident, hence the bulk of the album being taken from live recordings.  The album also features one of the band’s best known songs, “Melissa” among some of the more bluesy material.

4 FEBRUARY 2022

Flick the Dust Off: Bert Jansch – Rosemary Lane (Transatlantic TRA 235 – 1971)

Being such an obsessive fan of Bert’s seventh album, I once placed a square of stencilling film over the sleeve of this album and carefully cut out the romantic image, then screen printed the design onto a shirt, which I then wore until it fell off my back sometime in the late 80s.  Rosemary Lane was released in 1971 and contains a collection of originals, such as “Tell Me What Is True Love”,  “Nobody’s Bar” and “Bird Song”, together with one or two traditional songs, “Reynardine”, “Sylvie” and the title song among them.  I lucked out on the LP stakes when a fellow Bert fan invited me over to sift through a bunch of LPs that he had just acquired from the widow of another Bert fan.  We sat in the middle of the room sorting through the records and one after the other, he passed over the duplicates.  With every ‘got this one’, Mick handed over one gem after the other.  This was the start of an obsessive collection of some of the most treasured records in my record collection.  Although I met Bert on one or two occasions I never did get to interview him, which is regretful.

Singled Out: Thin Lizzy – Whisky in the Jar (Decca F 13355 – 1972)

Once considered a one hit wonder band, before their stretch at being one of the biggest live draws on the rock scene in the late 1970s, Thin Lizzy’s introduction into our consciousness was via their re-working of an old seventeenth century Irish folk tune made popular some years earlier by The Dubliners.  It apparently began as ‘a lark’ and then released as a single in 1972, becoming the band’s first hit.  Although seen by much of the Irish community as a travesty, the song’s commercial appeal saw the single reach number six on the British charts.  It may have been a bit of light relief in the studio for the young Phil Lynott and co, but it remains one of the most recognised pop versions of an old folk song, mainly due to its infectious guitar riff throughout.  I imagine that Phil Lynott, who died in 1986, would be just surprised as anyone to find that the song still often pops up on the radio every now and then.

Fifty Years Ago: Neil Young – Harvest (Warner KMS2277 – February 1972)

“Heart of Gold” was one of the most often played songs of 1972, the almost Dylan-like harmonica sound drawing many new ears to the songs of Neil Young, despite the singer having already released a couple of solo albums, not to mention a further two with Buffalo Springfield, one with Crosby Stills and Nash and a combined effort with Crazy Horse.  Young was no newcomer, yet it felt as if his music was only just coming to our attention by the time “Heart of Gold” reached number ten in the British singles charts and number one in the US in April 1972.  I bought the double soundtrack LP Journey Through the Past around the same time as Harvest, which contained some of the studio rehearsals for the Harvest sessions, providing a glimpse into the world of Neil Young, notably the song “Alabama”, one of the key Harvest tracks.  Not only does the album feature guest appearances by James Taylor, Linda Ronstadt and Crosby Stills Nash, it also features the London Symphony Orchestra on a couple of tracks, which always felt out of place in an otherwise country-inflected rock album.

28 JANUARY 2022

Flick the Dust Off: Nitty Gritty Dirt Band – Will the Circle Be Unbroken (United Artists UAS 9801 – 1972)

In 1972 the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band released a three disc LP under the title of Will the Circle Be Unbroken, the name of which comes from a song from the Carter Family’s prolific repertoire.  The idea for this ambitious project was for the band of young musicians to meet with some of the most well-known musicians who made their mark on country and old time mountain music over the three preceding decades, including Doc Watson, Merle Travis, Mother Maybelle Carter, Roy Acuff and Earl Scruggs.  Even in 1972, the clean cut older generation appeared to be slightly bemused by the hippie-ish look of the young band, Acuff even describing them as ‘a bunch of long-haired West Coast boys’.  The former stars of the Grand Ole Opry had no problem demonstrating their chops in the studio though, with each of the songs on the LP being either first or second takes.  The other important aspect of these recording sessions is the inclusion of studio chat between songs, all of which has been left on the recordings for posterity.

Singled Out: Ian Dury and the Blockheads – What a Waste (Stiff BUY27 – 1978)

When Prog Rock was allegedly finally pushed out of the way to make room for Punk in the mid-1970s, some discerning music fans, myself included, required something to fill the void, other than three chords played badly by angst-ridden teenagers who had no previous musical experience.  We were forced to look for something as musically dextrous as Prog but without the excesses, excesses that were probably Prog’s undoing, and also something fashionably cool but not specifically throwaway.  The music that eventually found its feet under the banner of New Wave seemed to provide the solution.  Ian Dury and the Blockheads were not only new and exciting but was also an extremely tight band both live and on record.  Their 1978 single “What a Waste”, backed with “Wake Up and Make Love With Me”, would go on to demonstrate precisely how tight and the single soon found its way into the little orange singles box.

Fifty Years Ago: Captain Beefheart – The Spotlight Kid (Reprise K44162 – January 1972)

Released in January 1972, Captain Beefheart’s sixth studio album was the first to be credited solely to Captain Beefheart, completely avoiding any mention of the Magic Band, who were obviously still very much present on this album.  Returning to a more blues-based music, the songs on The Spotlight Kid appear to utilise much simpler arrangements to those on his two previous records, Trout Mask Replica and Lick My Decals Off, Baby, therefore the album being generally thought of as his most accessible to date.  Joined by Bill Harkleroad and Elliot Ingber on guitars, Mark Boston on bass, John French on drums and Art Tripp on marimba, the Captain allegedly resorted to the same sort of bullying tactics present on the Trout Mask sessions, with a particular resentment towards Bill Harkleroad, who was at one point thrown into a dustbin.  Though the music was largely blues-based, the inclusion of the marimba provided a unique angle as exemplified on “Blabber and Smoke”.

21 JANUARY 2022

Flick the Dust Off: Muckram Wakes – A Map of Derbyshire (Trailer LER2085 – 1973)

Muckram Wakes was initially a Derbyshire-based trio, which comprised John Tams, Roger Watson and Helen Watson, with additional musicians Philip Langham and Graham Cooper who gathered together a selection of traditional songs, with a handful of original songs written in a traditional style for their debut Bill Leader produced LP released in 1973.  Muckram Wakes went through several changes in their short existence with many notable singers and musicians passing through their ranks, yet there’s little doubt that A Map of Derbyshire was their finest statement, which served to promote folk music in that particular region of the country.  The unusual band name comes from Muckram, a small township in the region of Somercotes where Tams originates  and Wakes, the northern word for a fair or holiday.  Among the songs included on the LP are the well known “Spencer the Rover” and “Poor Old Horse”.  In 2013, the Derby Folk Festival invited John Tams and The Derbyshire Volunteers to stage a performance of the entire LP and demonstrated that a good forty years had done little to soften the power of these songs.  A relaxed ensemble filled the Great Hall while a handful of singers and musicians took it in turn to take the spotlight, including Helen Hockenhull, who as Helen Watson appeared on the original recording, as well as Derby’s own Lucy Ward.  Festival patron John Tams sat at the side of the stage and introduced each of the performances clutching a copy of the original LP in his hands, while reminiscing about the recording and the circumstances surrounding that particular period.  The concert provided something memorable for the players and the audience alike and once again demonstrated precisely what these songs meant to the people of Derbyshire back then and continue to mean to the people today.

Singled Out: The Monkees – Alternate Title (RCA 1604 – 1967)

The first single I bought with my own hard earned cash.  Well that’s not quite true, it was bought with the record voucher I won when I took part in the popular children’s TV show Whistle Stop back in 1968.  As an 11 year-old, The Monkees was everywhere in my world, the four familiar faces on the bedroom wall, their names inscribed in various places on my school exercise books and rucksack, their records beginning to find their way into the radiogram.  The TV show was compulsory viewing and like the Beatles before them, we all had to choose a favourite.  Mickey Dolenz was the most zany of the bunch, so I gravitated towards the former child actor.  Dolenz takes the lead on “Alternate Title”, a single that underwent a name change due to nervous British record company executives, who worried themselves to distraction over the original title American Scouse Git, though it’s unclear which of those words might be considered the most offensive at the time.

Fifty Years Ago: Ry Cooder – Into the Purple Valley (Warner K44142 – January 1972)

When I first saw Ry Cooder on the Old Grey Whistle Test back in 1972, I became totally obsessed with his music and in particular his bottleneck guitar playing style, which led to seeking out other such players including Lowell George, Duane Allman and Bonnie Raitt.  At the time, I didn’t know “Vigilante Man” was a Woody Guthrie song, I didn’t even know who Woody Guthrie was.  Neither did I know who Ry Cooder was, although his name had been cropping up in the music press and I had one of his tracks on the Warner Bros Fruity sampler LP, the one with the round sleeve to match the record.  Here, I thought, is a guitar player appearing on the TV in an empty darkened studio, wearing a piece of cloth on his head and a shirt, which looked for all intents and purposes as if someone had vomited on it, while running the chopped off neck of a beer bottle up and down the neck of a very attractive guitar.  I couldn’t even decide whether he was singing in tune or not, all I knew for sure was that it was worlds away from Sweet’s “Little Willy”, a song that was at the same time seen on Britain’s only other rival music show.  After seeing this very ordinary looking dude, who looked like he had a glass eye (he did), sitting next to Bob Harris on my then favourite TV show, I went out and bought this album, mainly for “Vigilante Man”, but then to discover such gems as “Billy the Kid”, “Denomination Blues” and “Teardrops Will Fall”.  I only ever got to see Ry Cooder the once, on stage with David Lindley at the Manchester Apollo sometime in the 1990s.  Cooder remains one of greatest sources of musical eclecticism to this day.

14 JANUARY 2022

Flick the Dust Off: King Crimson – In the Court of the Crimson King (Island ILPS911 – 1969)

With one of the most distinctive and instantly recognisable sleeves in the history of popular music, King Crimson’s debut LP from 1969 is widely regarded as the first progressive rock album, though this might be contested by Sgt. Pepper obsessives.  In the Court of the Crimson King, with its slightly pretentious subtitle ‘An Observation by King Crimson’, was released on the Island label and often finds its way into the rare issues boxes in second hand record shops, with second mortgage level price tags depending upon the label.  The striking sleeve was designed by Barry Godber, who died shortly after the album’s release, it being his one and only album cover.  Album sales were helped along by the band’s high profile appearance at the Rolling Stones’ Hyde Park concert, which drew a crowd of up to half a million people and a few dead butterflies.  As with much of the music springing from the deep well of Prog, there’s plenty of jazz rock noodling and an abundance of mellotron on this undisputed classic in the genre.

Singled Out: Penguin Café Orchestra – Music for a Found Harmonium (Editions EG EGO22 -– 1985)

I first heard this quirky little tune in the 1986 Australian cult film comedy Malcolm, together with one or two other tunes provided by the same band, notably “Telephone and Rubber Band”, which peppered the equally quirky film.  “Music for a Found Harmonium” would later be picked up by folk musicians such as Sharon Shannon and Andy Irvine and is now performed regularly in the folk world, usually as a demonstration of musical dexterity, although much of the original’s appeal is lost in the replaying.  The tune should really be played on a harmonium, and preferably one that has been found.  I saw the orchestra perform the tune at the Cambridge Folk Festival in 1996, a year before founder Simon Jeffes died of an inoperable brain tumor.

Fifty Years Ago: Paul Simon – Paul Simon (CBS 69007 – January 1972)

Despite its title, Paul Simon was in fact Simon’s second solo album, his first, The Paul Simon Songbook, having been released just under seven years earlier.  By the time of its release, Simon had already dissolved his long time partnership with Art Garfunkel, just after the release of the duo’s final album Bridge Over Troubled Water a couple of years earlier and had embarked on a solo career, taking the opening song “Mother and Child Reunion”, said to be named after a chicken and egg dish on the menu in a Chinese restaurant, to the top ten in both the UK and US singles charts.  The song is also memorable for introducing reggae to new audiences.  Paul Simon was the first of Simon’s solo records to find its way into my collection shortly after its release and was later joined by many others, notably There Goes Rhymin’ Simon in1974 and Graceland in 1987.

31 DECEMBER 2021

Flick the Dust Off: Various Artists – Picnic (Harvest SHSS1&2 – 1970)

Other than the radio, sampler LPs provided the only economical way of keeping abreast of the sort of music I was interested in back in the late 1960s early 1970s.  The volume of new tracks being played on John Peel’s radio programme would create for me a dilemma at the record shop the next day.  The only way to have a bit of everything on a teenage budget at this time was to browse the samplers and even then, the double LPs would cost slightly more.  After saving up for a couple of weeks, the choice of adding this double LP to my collection was made all the more easier due to it being on the Harvest label, EMI’s prog rock imprint.  Most of the artists on the label were already familiar to me, including Deep Purple, Pink Floyd and the Edgar Broughton Band.  This sort of sampler LP would introduce me to new acts such as Kevin Ayers, Michael Chapman and Roy Harper, all slightly familiar by name only, but also completely new acts such as Quatermass, Forest and The Battered Ornaments.  The memorable thing about parting with my hard earned 29s/11d, was that while everyone around me was listening to “Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep”, I was getting down on an eclectic mix of traditional folk, hard rock, psychedelia and completely obscure stuff that would make my dad’s face contort with pain; and all thanks to the Harvest label and Mr Peel.

Singled Out: Paul Simon – Mother and Child Reunion (CBS S7793 – 1972)

Recorded in Kingston, Jamaica with Jimmy Cliff’s backing group, Paul Simon’s first single as a solo artist since “I Am A Rock” in 1965, came as a bit of a surprise after seven years spent with Art Garfunkel in the hugely successful duo Simon and Garfunkel.  Simon was interested in Reggae music and had previously tried his hand at the genre in the earlier song “Why Don’’t You Write Me”, which appeared on the hugely successful Bridge Over Troubled Water album released a couple of years earlier.  With “Mother and Child Reunion”, the title allegedly inspired by a chicken and egg dish on a Chinese menu, Simon managed to create a more authentic feel, largely due to the guitar playing of Hux Brown and Jackie Jackson’s bass, two of Jimmy Cliff’s sidemen who were also long serving members of Toots and the Maytals.  The single, which also featured Cissy Houston, appeared as the opening track to Simon’s eponymous second solo album released in the same year of 1972.

Fifty Years Ago: George Harrison – Concert for Bangladesh (Apple STCX3385 – December 1971)

When I first added this three disc box set to my burgeoning collection back in the early 1970s, it was probably the most expensive record I had bought up to that point.  I was forst of all bewildered at the sheer volume of the applause following George Harrison’s introduction to Bob Dylan’s short set.  It seemed to me that the engineer had increased the volume directly after the ‘quiet one’ brought on this ‘friend of us all’.  Dylan wasn’t a friend of mine, although this introduction and the six songs that followed helped me on the way to becoming a faithful follower a little later.  The Dylan side wasn’t my least played side, even back then, that particular honour going to Ravi Shankar, whose request for no smoking during the set I took literally, and waited until the middle of “Wah Wah”, which opened side two, to light up my Camel.  I was drawn to buying the album after seeing the film, which at the time featured all the key players including Eric Clapton, Billy Preston, Leon Russell, Badfinger and Ringo Starr to name a few.  The records seem to have stood the test of time even though the box they came in hasn’t.

24 DECEMBER 2021

Flick the Dust Off: Wishbone Ash – Wishbone Ash (MCA MKPS2014 – 1970)

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

Singled Out: Free – Wishing Well (Island WIP 6146 – 1972)

Whether right or wrong, good or bad, sensible or stupid, I was straight out of school in 1972 aged just 15 and thrown into an adult world of pubs, bedsits and the bohemian underworld of a Northern English town. Records topped the list of priorities at the time and my own particular record buying habit was informed by the radio, the music press and the jukeboxes in the local underground pubs that I would regularly visit at the weekend. Although the pop charts were loaded with pap in those days (as in any other period really), the proprietors of the establishments I would frequent had the good sense to load their jukeboxes with decent stock.  In Doncaster those pubs would be the Silver Link on Bradford Row, Beethams on St George Gate, The Blue Bell on Baxtergate and The Yorkist on St Sepulchre Gate.  During this time, the single that was played almost on repeat was “Wishing Well” by Free, one of the band’s last singles before their final split. Like the smell of patchouli oil and the sight of maroon corduroy loons, the sound of this single takes me right back there.

Fifty Years Ago: David Bowie – Hunky Dory (RCA SF8244 – December 1971)

Towards the end of 1971 and the beginning of 1972, I would look forward to hanging around at a mate’s house, watching and listening to his band’s rehearsals – he was the drummer and his older brother was the lead guitarist, who never once spoke to me.  The band’s repertoire included Cream’s “Sunshine of Your Love”, the Beach Boys’ “Student Demonstration” and Joe Cocker’s version of Leon Russell’s “Delta Lady”.  As the months went on, a new band member was drafted into the band’s ranks, a strange gangly blonde-haired youth, whose overt camp affectations would soon become easily his most immediately recognisable trait.  I never did know the youth’s real name but his nickname remains memorable in that it couldn’t possibly be repeated today, unless referring to a cigarette, and even for that purpose, the word is now very much redundant.  Not only did he bring a new musical sensibility to the band, he also brought along a couple of David Bowie songs for the set, including “Changes”, which we all now know is the opening song to Bowie’s fourth album.  It’s strange to think now, fifty years on, that Hunky Dory was famously the album that many fans returned to only after discovering The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars six months later, having been all but ignored previously.  It was all a bit too glam for me back then. I was still getting my head around Yes, whose Fragile album was released around the same time.  Bizarrely, Rick Wakeman played on both.  Nevertheless, Hunky Dory remains my favourite Bowie album to this day.

17 DECEMBER 2021

Flick the Dust Off: Frank Zappa – Hot Rats (Reprise 44078 – 1969)

The first time I heard Frank Zappa’s music was in the early 1970s when I bought the Mothers of Invention’s second LP Absolutely Free (the name of the album not the price tag) from Ken’s Swap Shop on St Sepulchre Gate in Doncaster.  I was one of Ken’s keenest swappers.  The concept was simple; you would take in a couple of discarded LPs and swap them for a new one, with the smallest exchange of cash.  My paper round only paid £1 a week, so the cash flow was limited, even in 1971.  This would lead to a world of Zappa for the next forty-odd years.  I particularly enjoyed Hot Rats because it was more about the music than the humour, one of the things that has frequently irritated me about Zappa over the years.  This LP is a fine example of jazz/rock fusion with some astonishing guitar solos courtesy of Zappa himself.  The only ‘Mother’ to appear on this LP was Ian Underwood.  “Willie the Pimp” also features a cameo by Captain Beefheart.  It’s one of the most re-visited of all Zappa’s albums in the collection and it continues to resonate today, ‘Hot Meat, Hot Rats, Hot Zitz, Hot Wrists, Hot Ritz, Hot Roots, Hot Soots…’  What’s not to like?

Singled Out: The Move – Tonight (Harvest HAR5038 – 1971)

I don’t know how true it is, but legend has it that Roy Wood wrote the 1971 pop song “Tonight” for the then current middle of the road band The New Seekers.  The Move had gone through various changes since their inception in 1965 and had scored a number of successful singles on Regal Zonophone, such as “Fire Brigade”, “Blackberry Way” and “Flowers in the Rain”, the very first song to be played on Radio 1 in 1967.  By 1971 however, the band had been reduced to a trio made up of Roy Wood, Jeff Lynne and Bev Bevan, who signed for the Harvest label and released a trio of hits including “Chinatown”, “California Man” and the heavily acoustic “Tonight”.  There is a video from 1971 featuring this line-up miming to the song, with possibly the only film or photographic footage of Lynne without his familiar shades on and Roy Wood doubling on acoustic and electric lap slide guitar for the now familiar, if not iconic, instrumental break.  

Fifty Years Ago: King Crimson – Islands (Island ILPS 9175 – December 1971)

Even fifty years on, King Crimson’s fourth album (in less than three years), can be a little challenging, no less so than when I first heard it while still in a school uniform.  Escaping the three minute pop songs of The Move, Creedence Clearwater Revival and The Kinks to engage in what we now recognise as the beginnings of Progressive Rock came with a strong sense of adventure, which demanded only time and patience and no particular need to identify with any tribe.  The band’s debut and its follow up, In the Wake of Poseidon opened doors musically, with some experimental jazz leanings present on their third outing Lizard, yet it was with Islands that demanded a little more consideration. The opening opus “Formentara Lady”, weaves effortlessly between classical cello scrapes and jazz improvisations, each serpentining around Peter Sinfield’s sweet sage and strange herb lyrics, which takes some getting used to.  Later though, there are some fine Beatles moments, certainly throughout the slightly discomforting “Ladies of the Road”, which opens the second side, the crafted harmonies hinting at a highly melodic sensibility just dying to crash through all the avant-garde noodling.  The sax plays a major role throughout the album, indicating a nod towards Soft Machine, yet at times the album can just as easily veer over to classical territory, certainly during the “Song of the Gulls” interlude and then some of Keith Tippett’s piano and Paulina Lucas’s soprano runs on the title track, which closes the album.

26 NOVEMBER 2021

Flick the Dust Off: Tom Waits – Closing Time (Asylum SYL9007 – 1973)

Closing Time was the first Tom Waits album that I discovered, though not until a few years after its initial release, when I heard a local folk/blues singer called Roy Machin perform “Martha” at the Rockingham Arms in Wentworth sometime in the early 1980s.  This prompted me to immediately seek out one or two of the early Waits albums, the first being this, then The Heart of Saturday Night then resting for a while on the superb double live set, Nighthawks at the Diner.  Anyone coming to the music of Tom Waits post Swordfishtrombones (1983) would probably not recognise the early Waits material, which is more conventional than the experimental music that would later follow; coming to Waits at this transitional moment was somewhat challenging.  Already deeply in love with such songs as “I Hope That I Don’t Fall In Love With You”, “Grapefruit Moon”, “Closing Time” as well as the aforementioned “Martha”, which I always imagined could have been played on the upright piano featured on the cover, there was always the notion of falling behind with some of Waits’ more advanced musical experiments.  Witnessing him perform “16 Shells From a Thirty-Ought-Six” on The Tube one Friday night in October 1985 was both exciting and bewildering at the same time, especially to someone still romantically involved with the magnificent “Martha”.

Singled Out: The Who – Join Together (Track 2094-102 – 1972)

This was one of the most played singles on the jukebox that I used to pour coins into at the Speedy Bar on St Sepulchre Gate in Doncaster, which stood at the entrance of the Trafford Way subway (now gone), the building now occupied by a beauty business, sandwiched between a barber’s and a funeral parlour.  The bar was a frequently visited establishment that I would go to after work in the early 1970s, where one or two of us had become devotees of The Who and would engage in several discussions about the band and their then current album releases, including Quadrophenia, Odds and Sods and The Who By Numbers, while listening to “Join Together” on repeat, a single that was evidently written the night before it was recorded along with its follow up “Relay”, both songs originally intended for the aborted Lifehouse project, the originally planned follow up to Tommy.  The single involves a Jews Harp intro, with several harmonicas, an unusual combination for a pop song at the time.  There is a promotional video of the band miming to a playback in the studio, which shows both Roger Daltrey and Keith Moon playing Jew’s harps, while Pete Townshend and John Entwistle are seen playing both chord and bass harmonicas respectively, though Townshend apparently played the lot.

Fifty Years Ago: Jonathan Edwards – Jonathan Edwards (Atlantic ATL40282 – November 1971)

After several support slots for the Allman Brothers Band in the late 1960s, Jonathan Edwards signed to Capricorn Records, the band’s own label, and released his self-titled debut LP in November 1971.  The Minnesota-born, Virginia-raised singer/songwriter touched a nation that was still going through the latter stages of a messy war in South East Asia with a dodgy leader at the helm, with the release of the jaunty country single “Sunshine”, a song of possible hope and optimism.  The song appeared to resonate with an audience hungry for good news, the single going on to reach number four on the Billboard chart around the same time.  Having played in a band with Joe Dolce on lead guitar, Edwards joined a plethora of singer/songwriters across the US, at one point joining Emmylou Harris for her album EliteHotel, which led to a deal with Warner Bros and two further albums Rockin’ Chair and Sailboat.  Edwards continues to write, record and tour and calls Portland, Maine home.

19 NOVEMBER 2021

Flick the Dust Off: The Flying Burrito Brothers – The Gilded Palace of Sin (A&M AMLS931 – 1969)

I first discovered the Flying Burrito Brothers in the early 1970s after hearing their live album The Last of the Red Hot Burritos, which was quite a different band from the four-piece recorded here on the band’s debut album, with only one original member present.  Gone was the band’s charismatic leader Gram Parsons, who along with Chris Hillman, (that original member) had left The Byrds to form the band with pedal steel player ‘Sneaky’ Pete Kleinow and bassist Chris Ethridge.  Continuing in the vein of what The Byrds achieved with the seminal Sweetheart of the Rodeo album the year before, the Flying Burrito Brothers brought together the lyricism of Country Music with the energy of Rock Music to create a new form of music.  Having been brought up with the ever present sound of Hank Locklin, Eddie Arnold and Jim Reeves, it took me a while to adjust to listening to just about anything associated with Country Music.  The Byrds, Poco and The Flying Burrito Brothers, were my way in, which would lead to an enduring love of Townes Van Zandt, Guy Clark and Emmylou Harris.  Crucial cuts here include “Christine’s Tune”, “Sin City”, “Dark End of the Street” and the astonishingly accomplished “Hot Burrito #1”, which Gene Clark chose to rename “I’m Your Toy” for his 1987 album So Rebellious a Lover with Carla Olson and even later, Elvis Costello.

Singled Out: George Harrison – My Sweet Lord (Apple R5884 – 1970) 

During the early months of 1971 you couldn’t go anywhere to escape the  lilting chorus of “My Sweet Lord”, which spilled out over the airwaves like honey, with its acoustic guitars, allegedly six of them, played by Eric Clapton, Pete Ham, Tom Evans, Joey Molland, Peter Frampton and Harrison himself, who also played the iconic slide bits, ringing out just about wherever you went.  With its strong spiritual message, intended for Harrison’s chosen Hindu god Krishna, the song would be universally claimed by everyone for their own purpose, choose what your religious persuasion might be.  The song unfortunately ran into trouble once it’s tenuous similarity to The Chiffons’ “He’s So Fine” became a potential sacred cash cow for its original author, putting something of a dampener on the ex-Beatle’s first solo single.  Nevertheless, the single would go on to become a huge hit worldwide and the biggest. selling single of the year, with one of the most recognisable two chord intros of any pop song.

Fifty Years Ago: Mott the Hoople – Brain Capers (Island ILPS9178 – November 1971)

Brain Capers is the fourth album release by Mott the Hoople and according to the back cover inscription, the album is dedicated to James Dean, who had been dead for sixteen years at the time of the album’s release.  Guy Stevens was once again at the helm, a strong presence through the band’s early years.  With such suggested titles as AC/DC, Brain Damage and Bizarre Capers, the band eventually settled on Brain Capers, with a relatively simple sleeve design in vivid red and a black mask insert, which was printed on the front in some later releases.   The band at the time consisted of Ian Hunter, Mick Ralphs, Pete Watts, Dale ‘Buffin’ Griffin and Verden Allen and the LP features a couple of covers, Dion’s “Your Own Backyard” and Jesse Colin Young’s “Darkness, Darkness”, together with its originals that include the sprawling “Journey”, the Rolling Stones influenced “Death May Be Your Santa Claus” and the Dylanesque “Sweet Angeline”.  It was probably the poor reception the album received that planted the seed of bringing the group to an end, until that is, the unexpected rescue plan courtesy of an unlikely source, but that’s another story.

12 NOVEMBER 2021

Flick the Dust Off: Steve Tilston – An Acoustic Confusion (The Village Thing VTS 5 – 1971)

Steve Tilston’s debut LP was first released on Ian A Anderson’s The Village Thing record label back in 1971, one of a handful of such early folk albums centred around the folk music scenes of both London and Bristol.  These days we see Steve Tilston as a sort of elder statesman of the British folk scene, his songs known through his own albums and performances but also through the interpretations of others, notably Fairport Convention, but also by Dolores Keane, The House Band, Peter Bellamy, Bob Fox and many others.  This Ian Anderson and Gef Lucena-produced album may have been the starting point for what has turned out to be a long and successful career, yet the songs on An Acoustic Confusion remain strong to this day, three of them being re-recorded for the recent retrospective album of his own ‘covers’ Distant Days, “I Really Wanted To”, “Time Has Shown Me Your Face” and “It’s Not My Place To Fail”.  Although essentially a solo album, the record does include a couple of guest musicians, labelmates from the Village Thing stable, including the late Dave Evans. Though the album may have been superseded by one or two subsequent mini-masterpieces, An Acoustic Confusion remains the Steve Tilson album I listen to most.

Singled Out: Edgar Broughton Band – Apache Drop Out (Harvest HAR 5032 – 1970) 

For some, this single might be far too whimsical to take all that seriously, though the band probably had no intention of treating it seriously at all when it was first released back in 1970.  A mash-up of sorts, the band stitch together two very different tunes, from barely seven years between, yet musically a whole world apart, with the opening guitar riff of The Shadows’ 1960 masterwork “Apache”, together with Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band’s “Drop Out Boogie”, which appears on the their 1967 debut Safe As Milk.  The pairing was bound to raise eyebrows at the to e when it was first released on the Harvest label by a band so inextricably linked with the underground music scene.  Nevertheless, “Apache Dropout” would become a staple of the band’s live set, along with “Out Demons Out”, the band’s other notable single release, a sort of homage to The Fugs’ song “Exorcising the Demons Out Of the Pentagon” from a couple of years earlier.  “Apache Drop Out” hardly constitutes a classic, but it does have a place in my musical world, if only for its novelty value.

Fifty Years Ago: Alice Cooper – Killer (Warner Bros WB56005 – November 1971)

Produced by Bob Ezrin, Killer was the fourth studio album by Alice Cooper, a band that came to wider prominence in the UK with their next album School’s Out, or at least the lead single from the album.  Yet it was the Killer album that initially broke the band after the band’s appearance on the Old Grey Whistle Test performing “Under My Wheels”, the album version featuring additional guitar by Rick Derringer, a song that also featured on the Warner Bros sampler Fruity.  There’s an immediately recognisable Punk influence in some of the songs on the album, which is probably one of the reasons Johnny Rotten of the Sex Pistols and Public Image Ltd fame would later claim the album to be the greatest rock album of all time.  Despite this, the album memorably contains two lengthy non-Punk pieces, the title song that closes the album and the adventurous “Halo of Flies”, with its ever-changing musical structure and tongue-in-cheek reference to “My Favourite Things”, which keeps the album a little closer to the turntable than anything by the Sex Pistols.

29 OCTOBER 2021

Flick the Dust Off: Pretty Things – Freeway Madness (Warner Brothers K46190 – 1972)

I was always amused by the moniker this bunch chose for their band name; a less pretty bunch you could not possibly imagine.  They were still going strong when I met up with Phil May back in 2011, confirming that age had done nothing to enhance their aesthetic credentials.  Despite this small detail, I’ve always enjoyed the band’s music from their early blues days through their adventurous pop opera period and on through their early 1970s rock albums.  I was aware of the Pretty Things back in the late 1960s when they released SF Sorrow, boasting the release of the first rock opera, a few months before The Who’s Tommy.  The first song from this 1972 LP I heard was “Onion Soup”, which was played on the John Peel show around the time of its initial release.  Judging by the scribble on the dust sleeve, I picked up my copy in 1973 and it still comes out to play every now and then.

Singled Out: Johnny and the Hurricanes – Red River Rock (London HL8948 – 1959)

The Toledo-based instrumental band Johnny and the Hurricanes had a penchant for re-arranging familiar traditional songs from the past, effectively ‘rocking’ them up for the then current pop market of the late 1950s and early 60s.  With a sound pretty much dominated by the organ and saxophone, Johnny Paris and his band were well known on the early Sixties music scene, playing headline shows at the Star Club in Hamburg with the then unknown Beatles opening for them.  “Red River Rock” is a reworking of the old traditional song “Red River Valley”, and along with the later single “Rocking Goose”, which honked and squawked throughout, the single became a constant presence on the Dansette in our front room for its novelty value if nothing else.

Fifty Years Ago: Elton John – Madman Across the Water (DJM DJLPH 420 – October 1971)

With a title said to refer to the unpopular Richard Nixon, which Bernie Taupin flatly repudiated, Madman Across the Water was the fourth album to be released by Elton John and the third to be released in 1971 after his self-titled second and Tumbleweed Connection.  Once again this album featured John’s touring band, including Dee Murray on bass and Nigel Olsson on drums, although most of the tracks feature studio musicians due to producer Gus Dudgeon’s insistence that the touring band wasn’t up to the job.  Magna Carta’s Davey Johnstone was also brought in for the sessions, who would become John’s most noted guitarists, though there does exist an earlier version of the title song that features Mick Ronson, which would later turn up on a reissue CD.  One of the album’s key songs is the brilliant “Tiny Dancer”, famously performed on the Old Grey Whistle Test at the time, helping Elton John’s meteoric rise to fame and stardom.

22 OCTOBER 2021

Flick the Dust Off: Lowell George – Thanks I’ll Eat It Here (Warner Brothers BSK 3194 – 1979)

I have to confess from the start that I never actually got to see Little Feat live, despite considering them to be the tightest little combo in music at the time.  When the band appeared on the Old Grey Whistle Test in the early 1970s with Lowell George looking as cool as it gets (well, as cool as anyone can be wearing a sweater over their shoulders, as if they’d just posed for a Freemans’ catalogue photo shoot), singing about a rock and roll doctor and a fat bloke in the bathtub, I was immediately hooked.  Unfortunately George was dead before the decade was out but he just managed to squeeze out one solo album in time.  Interestingly, the cover painting was by Little Feat’s regular designer Neon Park and features a picnic scene based upon Manet’s Le déjeuner sur l’herbe, which sees an unusual gathering of Bob Dylan, Fidel Castro and Marlene Dietrich, with a copy of Ginsberg’s Howl over by the hamper.  Of the songs included, Allen Toussaint’s “What Do You Want the Girl To Do” is a standout, as is George’s reading of Rickie Lee Jones’ “Easy Money”, while his own “20 Million Things” is the album’s notable acoustic number.  I actually prefer George’s solo version of “Two Trains” on this album to the Dixie Chicken original.

Singled Out: Upsetters – Return of Django (Upsetter US-201 – 1969)

When the Upsetters hit the UK charts with this infectious instrumental, few really knew much about the band.  Reggae was still in its infancy as a notable presence on British culture and singles such as the Harry J All Stars’ hit “The Liquidator” and Dave and Ansil Collins’ “Double Barrel” were seen pretty much as novelty tunes.  Reggae wouldn’t really take off until Bob Marley arrived a few years later with The Wailers.  Formed by the late Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry, Upsetters also included bassist Aston Barrett and his brother Carlton on drums, both who would go on to join The Wailers.  This tune was also featured in a popular chocolate commercial at the time, directed by Terry Gilliam, whose animations were widely known through the Monty Python’s Flying Circus television show.

Fifty Years Ago: Genesis – Nursery Cryme (Charisma CHC22 – October 1971)

Nursery Cryme was the third album by the British public school band Genesis and the first to feature the classic line-up of Peter Gabriel, Tony Banks, Mike Rutherford, Steve Hackett and Phil Collins.  A short album by then current standards, coming in at under forty minutes, Nursery Cryme features one of the band’s live set pieces, “The Musical Box”, the band’s longest composition to date and a piece filled with macabre nursery imagery, such as young Henry’s removal of Cynthia’s head with a croquet mallet.  This was one of the songs that made use of Gabriel’s bizarre theatrical stage antics, which incorporates the ‘old man’ mask for the concluding sequence.  The album also includes such Genesis staples as the sprawling “The Return of the Giant Hogweed” and the quirky but amusing “Harold the Barrel”, a song about a potential suicide attempt, incorporating Gabriel’s refreshing humour and a bunch of Gabriel’s engaging characters.  Artist Paul Whitehead designed and illustrated the album sleeve, as he had done the band’s previous album Trespass and the follow up Foxtrot, all three depicting at least one of the songs on each album.  Sadly, Whitehead’s original illustrations for each of the three albums ‘disappeared’ in the early 1980s, after Charisma was sold to Virgin.

15 OCTOBER 2021

Flick the Dust Off: John Lennon – Walls and Bridges (Apple PCTC253 – 1974)

By 1974 John Lennon had pretty much disappeared off the scene, only to pop up now and again in the tabloids, raising hell in LA with Harry Nilsson during his now legendary ‘Lost Weekend’ period, with May Pang by his side like a conjoined twin.  I was sort of hanging out with a pal’s sister at the time and our general meeting ground was the ongoing argument between who was more important musically, Lennon or McCartney.  I was of the mind that McCartney was the better composer but Lennon was the more interesting Beatle.  I recall many nights dissecting lyrics, mourning the end of the Beatles and reading poetry, until Christmas Eve 1974, when she said enough is enough and our musical exchanges became a thing of the past.  Notable songs “#9 Dream”, “Steel and Glass” and “Whatever Gets You Through the Night”, featuring Elton John and Bobby Keys on sax.  The album also features a young Julian Lennon on drums on Lee Dorsey’s  “YaYa”.  Walls and Bridges always bring those memories back vividly whenever I play it.  Just seventeen and just starting out, to the soundtrack of Lennon; it was all bound to end in tears.

Singled Out: Wilson Pickett – Land of 1000 Dances (Atlantic 584039 – 1966)

Occasionally, a certain sound comes along, whether that be Liverpool’s Merseybeat, the Phil Spector Wall of Sound, famously of the Gold Star Studios in Los Angeles, the country sound of Nashville, Tennessee, or Detroit’s very distinctive Motown sound, each location is almost defined by its sound and the same can be said for Muscle Shoals in Alabama.  Muscle Shoals was the home of the late Rick Hall’s FAME studios, located on East Avalon Avenue in Muscle Shoals, FAME being an acronym for Florence Alabama Music Enterprises, which opened for business in the 1950s.  Artists such as Percy Sledge, Arthur Alexander and Solomon Burke cut their teeth at the studios and producer Jerry Wexler brought in some of Atlantic Records’ soul stars such as Wilson Pickett and Aretha Franklin, in order to rekindle some of the fire in their music, both of whom cut some defining records at the FAME studios, backed curiously enough by white session musicians such as Chips Moman, Jimmy Johnson, Spooner Oldham and Roger Hawkins amongst others.  Duane Allman persuaded Wilson Pickett to record the Beatles’ “Hey Jude”, which at the time would have been considered madness.  It was also during his time in Muscle Shoals that Pickett recorded one of his best remembered songs, “Land of 1000 Dances”, which went on to become Pickett’s biggest pop hit, reaching number one on the Billboard Hot Rhythm and Blues Singles charts in 1966.  If you can’t quite place the song, it’s the one with more ‘na na’s than the aforementioned Beatles song.

Fifty Years Ago: Yes – Fragile (Atlantic K50009 – October 1971)

The fourth album by the Progressive Rock band Yes saw one major line-up change when Rick Wakeman replaced founding member Tony Kaye on keyboards, due in no small part to Kaye’s refusal to move into the adventurous sphere of electronica, maintaining a stubborn allegiance to the standard piano/organ fare.  Wakeman brought into the band  a whole caboodle of electric pianos, synthesisers and the obligatory Mellotron in order to further the band’s overall Prog sound.  The LP was also the first to feature a sleeve designed by artist Roger Dean, whose futuristic landscapes would go on to be regularly employed in rock music for years to come.  Made up of four group efforts and several solo compositions, the album feels slightly fragmented and covers various styles from Brahmsian classical music to flamenco, with one composition lasting just thirty-five seconds, challenging the notion that Prog songs go on a bit.  Despite the album’s diverse approach, Fragile does include on of the band’s most familiar songs, the relatively accessible “Roundabout”, which opens the side one.

8 OCTOBER 2021

Flick the Dust Off: Gay and Terry Woods – The Time Is Right (Polydor Super 2383 375 – 1976)

When Ashley Hutchings first set out to form Steeleye Span back in the late 1960s, the first musicians he approached were Johnny Moynihan, Andy Irvine and Gay and Terry Woods.  Moynihan and Irvine declined the offer overnight, making way for the two musicians who would become synonymous with the band in the future, Maddy Prior and Tim Hart, who stepped in to form the original five-piece Folk Rock outfit.  It was all pretty much short lived as Gay and Terry left to join Dr Strangely Strange, a sort of Irish version of the Incredible String Band, shortly afterwards.  The Time Is Right is one of four LPs that would be released by the duo in the 1970s.  Terry Woods went on to join The Pogues and Gay (born Gabriel Corcoran) would later re-join Steeleye for a few years, before finally leaving the band in 2001 after contributing to four albums, including Time (1996) and Bedlam Boys (2000).  My pal Mick Swinson introduced me to this album in the mid 1980s and I soon obtained my own copy in an amicable exchange with another friend, for a Steve Forbert LP I had lying about, in the days when swapping vinyl was almost as essential as breathing.

Singled Out: The Kinks – Dead End Street (PYE 7N.17222 – 1966)

To a nine-year old from the north of England, the Kinks usually represented all the glamour of a ‘Swinging London’, with tinted specs, brightly coloured union jack tunics and frilly shirt cuffs, all of which seemed a world away from the dreary mid-Sixties North.  By April 1966, Time magazine had declared London ‘The Swinging City’, with a feature on its cover, letting America know where its epicentre was, whilst The Kinks lampooned Carnaby Street in their Music Hall inspired hit “Dedicated Follower of Fashion”, which went on to reach number four in the UK charts.  By the end of the year though, Ray Davies had penned a rather bleak antidote to the forthcoming Summer of Love with “Dead End Street”, a song I could actually relate to, living on a dead end street myself.  The promo film that accompanied the single, shot on Little Green Street in Kentish Town, remains one of the most unusual pre-video age promo music films, which was considered to be in bad taste at the time by the BBC.  Despite its rather bleak subject matter, the song remains one of the band’s best loved songs of the mid-Sixties along with “Sunny Afternoon” and “Waterloo Sunset”.

Fifty Years Ago: Van Morrison – Tupelo Honey (Warner Bros K46114 – October 1971)

The bulk of the  songs on Van Morrison’s fifth studio album were written in Woodstock, the artsy ‘back to the country’ home of Dylan and The Band and namesake of the legendary festival that was staged a couple of years earlier, albeit a good fifty miles away in Bethel.  The small town was a temporary retreat for Morrison and his then-wife Janet ‘Planet’ Rigsbee together with their small family.  The music reflects the idyllic setting, notably the title song, the name of which relates to the honey produced from the flowers of the tupelo tree.  Shortly afterwards, Morrison moved to California, where the album was recorded at the Wally Heider Studios in San Francisco and completed in May 1971 at the Columbia Studios.  The album provided the singer with three singles, the first being “Wild Night” with “Tupelo Honey” and “(Straight to Your Heart) Like a Cannonball” following shortly afterwards.  The catchy country song “I Wanna Roo You” was also featured on the Warner Bros sampler LP Fruity, famed for its circular sleeve.

4 OCTOBER 2021

Flick the Dust Off: Nanci Griffith – The Last of the True Believers (Rounder REU 1013 – 1986)

It was around the mid-1980s when I first began to take notice of country music once again.  After so many years of rhinestone cowboys, frequent divorces (with full stops between each upper case letter) and islands in the streams, I thought I would never return.  Then along came Nanci Griffith and Lyle Lovett and a whole bunch of other songwriters who laboured under the ‘New Country’ banner and things began to look interesting once again.  In 1989, both Griffith and Lovett appeared on the bill of the twenty-fifth anniversary Cambridge Folk Festival, which prompted me to make an effort to attend for the first time.  I remember arriving at the Cherry Hinton site with the car windows down and being horrified after hearing the sound of Nanci coming from the main stage.  The speed at which I parked the car, organised a wife and two very young children and arrived in front of the main stage was unprecedented.  I think I managed to do it in two songs flat.  The Last of the True Believers was one of several LPs I already had in the collection, which not only features Nanci and Lyle waltzing on the cover, but also some great songs such as “Love at the Five and Dime” (or Woolies as we know it over here), “The Wing and the Wheel” and a rather fulfilling reading of Tom Russell’s “St Olav’s Gate”.

Singled Out: Mick Ronson – Billy Porter (RCA 2482 – 1974)

The Hull-born singer and guitarist Mick Ronson was probably best known for his work with David Bowie during Bowie’s most creative and critically acclaimed period as a key member of the Spiders from Mars.  Watching Top of the Pops every Thursday evening was a family thing back then, and there would always be something for all ages.  When Bowie and Ronson got close up and personal during their TOTP debut with “Starman”, it was just a little too much for dad, who lurched out of the room to the kitchen to swill out his teacup, return moments later, pick up the evening post and grumble under his breath, as I continued to gaze at the TV with my mouth agape.  Ronson was also known for his work as a guitarist, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, arranger and producer and throughout the 1970s until his untimely death in the early 1990s, worked not only with Bowie but also Ian Hunter and at one point Bob Dylan during the noted Rolling Thunder tour, making a string if solo albums along the way.  It was in the mid-1970s however when local cover bands who were then dominating the working men’s clubs of the north of England latched onto “Billy Porter”, one of Ronson’s most memorable songs, although it never achieved the chart topping status it thoroughly deserved. 

Fifty Years Ago: Shirley Collins and the Albion Country Band – No Roses (Mooncrest Crest11 – October 1971)

The famed English folk singer Shirley Collins was still married to the ex-Fairport Convention bassist Ashley Hutchings at the time of No Roses, an album the couple collaborated on under the guise of the Albion Country Band.  The centre spread of the gatefold sleeve shows the couple strolling along in a field reminiscent of Gainsborough’s Mr and Mrs Andrews, though devoid of the tricorn hat and gun.  The LP is perhaps best remembered though for the collaborative nature of the recordings, with various folk luminaries dropping in and out of the studio during the recording sessions, including Fairporters Simon Nicol, Dave Mattacks and Richard Thompson, singers Lal and Mike Waterson, Royston Wood and Maddy Prior and an assortment of other folkies that included John Kirkpatrick, Nic Jones and Barry Dransfield.  The title No Roses comes from a verse in “The False Bride”, a song Collins released on an earlier EP Heroes in Love almost ten years earlier.  Recorded at both Sound Techniques and Air Studios in London and produced by Sandy Roberton and Ashley Hutchings, No Roses stands as a landmark in folk rock from its early Seventies heyday.

3 OCTOBER 2021

Flick the Dust Off: Townes Van Zandt – Our Mother the Mountain (TomatoTOM 7015 – 1978)

The second album by the legendary Texas singer-songwriter Townes Van Zandt was first released in 1969 and re-issued in 1978 on Tomato.  It was probably the first indication for me that there was more to country music than rhinestones and big hairdos.  I didn’t get to see Townes until 1990, when he actually came to my home town, wandering in and out like tumbleweed, playing a couple of sets before what could only have barely been described as an audience at the now demolished Toby Jug in Doncaster.  During the break a couple of us went up to say hello and had a brief chat.  After the second set, as we headed for the door, he called over, “Thanks for saying hello”.  The last time I saw Townes Van Zandt was five months before he died at the Cambridge Folk Festival, where he tried to play a main stage set to an audience primarily made up of Saw Doctors fans, who had congregated for their headline set later that evening.  Seeing him drink vodka directly from the bottle, splashed down with coke from a bottle in his other hand, one mouthful after the other, as seen in the film Heartworn Highways,  will probably be my lasting memory of this great songwriting hero.  Our Mother the Mountain has one or two classic Townes songs, including “Be Here To Love Me”, “Kathleen” and “Tecumseh Valley”.

Singled Out: Fairfield Parlour – Bordeaux Rose (Prism PRI 1 – 1976)

Fairfield Parlour was one of those relatively obscure UK bands that emerged in the late 1960s having already had some success under the name of Kaleidoscope, a name already taken by a psychedelic band from California.  Their style was pretty much in the same vein as early Pink Floyd and Traffic, with some folk elements.  Their debut album From Home to Home seemed to pop up in every record shop browser back in 1970, the year of its release and there was a tendency to confuse the band with Fairport Convention, alphabetically their closest neighbour, though they had little in common musically.  Prior to the release of this album, which was released on the iconic swirling Vertigo label, the band released “Bordeaux Rose” (or Bordeaux Rose-ay!) as their first single as Fairfield Parlour, though they had already released seven singles as Kaleidoscope, again on the Vertigo label.  Although the single didn’t appear on the original album, it did appear as a bonus track, together with a further alternate version on the 2001 double reissue.  I first came across the album in a record shop in North Wales in the early 1970s and sadly left it in the shop; I say sadly, as copies of the original LP now fetch the same sort of sums as a good second hand car.

Fifty Years Ago: Family – Fearless (Reprise K54003 – October 1971)

Fearless is the fifth album by the Leicester-based progressive rock band Family and the only album by the band to feature the future King Crimson bassist John Wetton, who replaced John Weider, himself only having joined a short time before and who played on the band’s previous couple of albums A Song For Me and Anyway (both 1970), and whose contribution can be immediately felt on the album opener “Between Blue and Me”.  Better known for its elaborate file-like multi-page album sleeve, which shows the blurring of each of the musicians’ heads, designed by John Kosh, with an inscription in the Olde English typeface ‘This album is dedicated to all the people who have pulled strokes for or against us, for they shall be called fearless’, beneath which a cartoon rabbit says ‘Daft I call it’.  Wetton joined the ranks of Roger Chapman, Charlie Whitney, John ‘Poli’ Palmer and Rob Townsend, the band folding a couple of years later in 1973.

2 OCTOBER 2021

Flick the Dust Off: Stealers Wheel – Ferguslie Park (A&M 68209 – 1973)

Ferguslie Park is one of only three LPs I can think of to feature a cow on the sleeve, the others being Pink Floyd’s Atom Heart Mother and the other being Vashti Bunyan’s Just Another Diamond Day.  There could be more.  My name happens to be scribbled on the inner sleeve of this Stealers Wheel LP, along with ‘73’, the year I must have bought it.  Despite a slightly hazy memory from this period, I do actually recall picking this album up immediately after its release as if it were yesterday.  Bearing in mind I was a huge fan of the earlier single “Stuck in the Middle”, a song which appeared on the band’s debut album the year before and many years before Quentin Tarantino chose the song for the soundtrack to his infamous Van Gogh routine in Reservoir Dogs, it would be just a matter of course that this LP would find its way onto my shelf.  The celebrated American songwriting team of Leiber and Stoller produced the LP, which featured amongst other things “Star”, a wonderfully melodic song and possibly one of the most underrated pop songs in the history of underrated pop songs, that in a perfect world should really have taken the top spot in the charts instead of the awful “Tiger Feet” back in February 1974.  Ferguslie Park is named for a housing estate in Paisley, Scotland, where both Gerry Rafferty and Joe Egan (effectively Stealers Wheel) grew up, together with the man who designed all three Stealers Wheel album covers, the artist John Byrne.

Singled Out: The Lemon Pipers – Green Tambourine (Pye International 7N25444 – 1967)

Whenever I go through the motions of sifting through the singles collection here at Northern Sky, especially those from the mid to late 1960s section, there’s always the danger of pulling out an item that might be considered ‘bubblegum pop’.  In 1967 I was but ten years old, a mere nipper, therefore I can’t pretend that I would have been listening to progressive rock, modern jazz or the sort of floaty folk music that was around at the time, but instead, I would have been very much embroiled in a world of teeny bopper culture, with pop records as seen each Thursday night in black and white on Top of the Pops or heard on the newly established BBC pop radio channel Radio One.  The Ohio-based pop group The Lemon Pipers were actually quite distinctive from other such outfits though, in that unlike such bands as The Monkees, this band had their own songwriters within the band itself.  It was their producer however, Paul Leka, who penned the band’s biggest hit, in fact their only hit, which is to this day still regularly included at the top end of many a ‘one hit wonder’ list, not bad for a song about busking.

Fifty Years Ago: Incredible String Band – Liquid Acrobat as Regards the Air (Island ILPS 9172 – October 1971)

Anyone still buying Incredible String Band records in 1971 would be considered die-hard fans.  The band had been a trio, a duo, a duo with girlfriends and at one point, a sort of theatrical outfit, with eight albums under their belt by the time Liquid Acrobat came along.  The thing that marks their ninth album out from the band’s earlier releases, is that it was their first almost completely electric album, a sort of folk rock excursion, becoming one of the band’s most successful albums of their career.  Liquid Acrobat was produced by Stanley Schnier and features original members Mike Heron and Robin Williamson, along with Malcolm Le Maistre and Licorice (Likki) McKechnie, who takes the lead vocal on one of her own songs, the whimsical, almost Music Hall ditty “Cosmic Boy”.  The other ‘girlfriend’ Rose Simpson had just left the band to concentrate on rearing a family, while Fotheringay drummer Gerry Conway stepped in to provide the all important rock beats.  The Music Hall aesthetic continued with Williamson’s jaunty “Evolution Rag”, which features no less than three kazoos and a swanee whistle.  Perhaps the album’s show stopper though, is the sprawling eleven-minute closer “Darling Belle”.  Mike Heron’s “Worlds They Rise and Fall” was later used in the soundtrack to the low budget film Hideous Kinky, Kate Winslet’s next film after the blockbusting Titanic.

1 OCTOBER 2021

Flick the Dust Off: Free – Fire and Water (Island ILPS9120 – 1970)

In 1970, you would probably have been either a hermit living in the remote Motuo County in China or a crown court judge, not to have heard of the British rock band Free.  “All Right Now” seemed to be on the radio constantly, which in those days would be located under the bed covers, tuned into Radio Luxembourg (or almost tuned in, as the case might be).  The same year saw the extremely young band play the Isle of Wight Festival alongside Jimi Hendrix, The Who, The Doors, Leonard Cohen and Joni Mitchell amongst others, and lest we forget, they almost stole the show.  Fire and Water, the band’s third album, was among the first few LPs I ever owned and I still consider it a firm favourite.  Having been used to the single version of “All Right Now”, it initially came as a surprise to find the extended version on this LP that featured a little more Kossoff, which is never a bad thing.  There’s no other singer in the world quite like Paul Rodgers, whose soulful voice permeates the seven songs, notably the title song, “Mr Big” and the aforementioned “All Right Now” in particular.  It was just a shame that Mr Kossoff had his finger on the self-destruct button, as did many of his contemporaries at the time.

Singled Out: Janis Joplin – Me and Bobby McGee (CBS 7019 – 1971)

Though written by the singer-songwriter and actor Kris Kristofferson, “Me and Bobby McGee” has become very much associated with the late Janis Joplin, who recorded the song for inclusion on her 1971 LP Pearl, a few days before her untimely death at the age of 27.  The song’s lyrics were apparently inspired by Boudleaux Bryant’s Music Row secretary Barbara ‘Bobby’ McKee, who was referred to in a joke by Bryant, claiming that the only reason the song’s co-writer Fred Foster came to Bryant’s office was to see his secretary.  Foster pitched the idea to Kristofferson, who subsequently changed the subject’s name to McGee, and a song was born.  Kristofferson had no idea that Joplin had recorded the song until the day after her death.  The song went to number one in the US Hot 100 in the wake of Joplin’s death and became something of an unexpected classic.

Fifty Years Ago: Pink Floyd – Meddle (Harvest SHVL 795 – October 1971)

The compositions on Pink Floyd’s sixth album are so diverse that the record appears to contain both their finest and their worst track in the career of the band, which may or may not be true.  If the utterly throwaway “Seamus”, a simple twelve bar blues featuring Steve Marriott’s dog of the same name desperately howling along, might be considered the band’s worst recorded song, then the epic “Echoes”, which takes up the entire second side, might well claim the crown as their finest.  Perhaps it’s the steady build and varying themes throughout the twenty-three minute opus that remains just as important today as it was back in 1971.  Despite the inclusion of their finest moment, the Hipgnosis cover was slightly disappointing, with Storm Thorgerson’s photograph of an underwater ear being the best he could come up with.  The opening track “One of These Days” was played every week at the Doncaster Top Rank’s prog rock night and hearing those twinned bass runs swirling around the nightclub remains an enduring memory, together with drummer Nick  Mason’s spoken ‘one of these days I’m going to cut you into little pieces’, being slightly reminiscent of Roger Waters’ whispered part in “Careful With That Axe Eugene”, both an indication of the band’s more macabre sense of humour.  Perhaps the most memorable moment on Meddle though is the field recording of the Liverpool FC Kop singing their claimed anthem “You’ll Never Walk Alone” at the end of “Fearless”, an acoustic song that remains one of the band’s most enduring off the cuff performances.

25 SEPTEMBER 2021

Flick the Dust Off: Dransfield – The Fiddler’s Dream (Transatlantic TRA 322 – 1976)

I missed out on witnessing the folk siblings Robin and Barry Dransfield perform together live having arrived on the folk scene a little too late to the party.  After discovering one or two Dransfield brothers LPs in the early 1980s, I set about searching for them and I distinctly recall chatting to the elder brother Robin over the phone around that time, effectively begging him to consider a reunion with his younger brother, but alas it wasn’t to happen.  I subsequently heard that the siblings didn’t get along particularly well.  I did however get to see Barry in 1995 at the Cambridge Folk Festival, who although nice to see, was something of an anti-climax.  It was those two voices together that really made the difference.  In the mid-1970s, the brothers made this Folk Rock album under the moniker of The Dransfields, which was to become the final nail in the coffin for their professional relationship.  Pulling in different directions, together with the usual sibling rivalry and poor album sales, the partnership was just about over a good few years before my interest was sparked.  Such a waste.  Highlights on this LP are the opener “Up to Now”, “It’s Dark in Here” and the epic “Violin”.  Brian Harrison joins the brothers on keyboards and bass with Charlie Smith on drums.

Singled Out: The Faces – Stay With Me (Warner Brothers K16136 – 1971)

It’s hard to believe that fifty years have passed since I first heard this song for the first time back in 1971.  A Ronnie Wood/Rod Stewart co-write, “Stay With Me” would serve as a backdrop to the proverbial mime I would act out before the bedroom mirror back in my early teenage years, yelling these raunchy lyrics into a hairbrush tied to the end of a stick, whilst simultaneously wielding a Fender tennis racquet, assuming the roles of both Rod and Ronnie in one go.  If Rita, the subject in question, was to indeed ‘stay with me’, then I would probably not have had the first clue as to what to do next.  The song was one of the first UK top ten singles to reflect the trashy rock and roll lifestyle of the time, with Rita’s red lips, hair and fingernails very much on display as Rod invites her upstairs to read Tarot cards!  Ah, a new world of euphemisms to explore at playtime.  This is Rod Stewart, Ronnie Wood, Ronnie Lane, Ian McLagan and Kenney Jones at their shambolic best.

Fifty Years Ago: Lindisfarne – Fog on the Tyne (Charisma CAS 1050 – September 1971)

It was most probably the opening song, “Meet Me on the Corner”, written by Rod Clements, that would draw most people to the second album release by the Tyneside five-piece band Lindisfarne back in 1971.  The Dylan inspired ‘Hey Mister Dreamseller’ opening line with its jingle-jangle guitar and harmonica intro must have been an inviting sound in the early 1970s, especially to those with a tentative regard for the commercial side of Dylan or indeed folk music in general.  The band had a sense of humour, which shone through, especially on the album’s title song, another aspect of the band that seemed to draw people in.  An appearance on the Old Grey Whistle Test might have sealed the deal, despite the gratuitous display of tank tops, hair-a-plenty and Newcastle United stripes, sales of the album rocketing and the album reaching number one in the UK album charts and becoming the eighth best selling album of the following year.

24 SEPTEMBER 2021

Flick the Dust Off: Richard and Linda Thompson – Hokey Pokey (Island ILPS9305 – 1975)

It’s strange to think in these terms now, in a time when just about every type of weird and wonderful voice known to humankind has been fully explored, from Tom Waits to Devendra Banhart, from Bjork to Joanna Newsome, not to mention Tiny Tim or Antony (of the Johnsons fame), but I have to confess, when I first heard Richard Thompson’s voice, I didn’t much care for it.  There was something decidedly odd about it; an acquired taste if ever there was such a thing.  It was therefore a relief when this gifted guitarist and songwriter handed over the tonsil aerobics to his missis. While Bright Lights was hailed as a masterpiece, this second helping from the soon to be converted to Islam hubby and wife team mixed music hall, brass bands and English hymns with some of the bleakest songs so far in the Thompson catalogue. The passage of time has been instrumental in changing my mind over Thompson’s credentials as a singer, in fact one need look no further than his own definitive versions of “Beeswing”, “From Galway to Graceland” or “1952 Vincent Black Lightning” for proof of that.  Still not the greatest voice in the world, but it has a certain familiarity and belonging now.  Of all the Thompson albums up on the shelf, this LP from 1974 is the one that often finds its way back onto the turntable.

Singled Out: Juicy Lucy – Who Do You Love (Vertigo 6059001 – 1969)

Inspired by the name of a character in The Virgin Soldiers, the popular novel by Leslie Thomas, Juicy Lucy were a British blues-based rock band, formed from the ashes of The Misunderstood after their break-up in 1969.  Shortly afterwards, the band immediately enjoyed some success with the first single from their self-titled debut, an LP notable for its cover as well as the hard hitting music.  The single came my way by means of the outdoor record stall on Doncaster market, the 45 being an obvious choice, first and foremost due to the label, the appealing black and white spiral Vertigo label, later to be replaced by the comparatively dull Roger Dean spaceship design.  “Who Do You Love” was a popular song, originally released by Bo Diddley in 1956 and subsequently a staple in the repertoires of such as Ronnie Hawkins and the Hawks, Quicksilver Messenger Service and George Thorogood and the Destroyers.

Fifty Years Ago: Curved Air – Second Album (Warner Bros K46092 – September 1971)

Released at a time when promotional gimmicks were perhaps a sure fire way of selling product, Curved Air’s second LP came wrapped in a complicated sleeve design that once eventually unfolded, revealed not only the actual record, but five black and white photographs of the individual band members, plus a topless group shot of the band, with Sonja Kristina cleverly tucked away at the bottom, revealing nothing but her face, a clever maneuver on the part of the photographer.  The band’s previous album also came with some disappointment, when it was released as an early picture disc, which was almost unplayable, despite its aesthetic value.  The big hit from this album was “Back Street Luv”, which reached number four in the UK charts, backed by the almost Yoko-esque “Everdance”.  Second Album wasn’t the critically acclaimed album the band expected it to be, which was probably due to the band members pulling in different directions with no solid band unity to speak of.

17 SEPTEMBER 2021

Flick the Dust Off: Woody Guthrie – Dust Bowl Ballads (Rounder 1040 – 1988)

I don’t really know where to start with Woody Guthrie.  I think it might be the legend that surrounds the Oklahoma-born folk singer that interests me more than the actual songs.  I first became aware of him after seeing Alice’s Restaurant as a teenager at the Civic Theatre (or the Arts Centre as it was then known) in Doncaster, in the early 1970s.  There’s a scene where some kindly-looking actor plays a distinctly serene Woody lying still in a New York hospital bed while his son Arlo, together with old mate Pete Seeger serenade him with a few of his songs.  This was nothing like the shaky old folk singer suffering the latter effects of Huntington’s in reality.  I was also aware of some of Woody’s songs through the records of Ry Cooder and Bob Dylan.  Dust Bowl Ballads chronicles the depression era and shows Guthrie at his best, every single word coming over with crystal clarity, despite the poor recording quality, each story told as convincingly as possible.  Hearing the “Ballad of Tom Joad” made me head straight for John Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath, both the novel and John Ford’s film classic, both of which I return to now and again.

Singled Out: Emmylou Harris – Here, There and Everywhere (Reprise K14415 – 1976)

In true Simon Bates fashion (cue sickly saccharine sweet background music), number 64 in this series is ‘Our Tune’, a 45 jointly enjoyed by both Mrs W and I when we first met in the mid 1970s.  Over the years, our mutual music appreciation has differed wildly, yet when our eyes locked in the autumn of 1975, country star Emmylou Harris was heard on the radio singing this old Beatles tune, which prompted this young teenager to go out and buy the single.  Being a huge Beatles fan at the time, it seemed only right to find our mutual ground in McCartney’s lyrics.  They sang ‘her’ and she sang ‘him’, but essentially it’s the same song and (this is where it gets syrupy sweet), whenever I hear Emmylou’s version, I seem to be transported right back to that hot summer, discovering the woman I would spend the rest of my life with, going together here, there and everywhere.

Fifty Years Ago: Wishbone Ash – Pilgrimage (MCA MDKS 8004 – September 1971)

In the words of the mighty Greil Marcus “What is this shit? a colourful phrase that could quite easily have been applied to the reaction of some Wishbone Ash fans when they first dropped the needle on the band’s eagerly awaited second album Pilgrimage back in September 1971.  The opening track “Vas Dis”, a cover of a Brother Jack McDuff jazz workout, complete with convincing scat vocal, would have sent fans reeling, especially those anticipating more “Phoenix” and “Lady Whiskey”.  The challenging opener is followed by “The Pilgrim”, which soon brought fans back into the fold, with a return to form, its familiar twin guitar motifs courtesy of Andy Powell and Ted Turner are well placed for those eager for the rock riff.  Once again though, the vocal continues along scat lines and now at thirteen minutes in and not one single lyric delivered, the fans began to worry.  No matter, the third track brings the band back to the form they first explored on their debut album of the previous year with “Jailbait”,  a Rory Gallagher type blues rocker, which would remain in the band’s set for some years to come.  For those still unfamiliar with precisely what this band looks like, the album offers no less than sixty-four black and white photographs of the band on the inner gatefold sleeve.  Despite the album’s jazz leanings, Pilgrimage remains a much played album, with some memorable moments.   

11 SEPTEMBER 2021

Flick the Dust Off: Pentangle – Basket of Light (Transatlantic TRA 205 – 1969)

It wasn’t quite as early as 1969, more like a couple of years later, when a young and hip Methodist Youth Club leader and his equally young and infinitely more attractive wife introduced me to Pentangle.  Although I hesitate to refer to myself as the club DJ, I was the kid responsible for changing the records on the Dansette, an irritation to most of the female contingent as I spun records by Creedence Clearwater Revival, The Move, The Kinks, Humble Pie and The Beatles, instead “Love Grows Where My Rosemary Goes”, “Sugar Sugar” and the dire “Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep”.  The club leader began to tire of “Voodoo Chile” and was looking for something slightly more ‘pastoral’, so the nex week he brought in this strange LP for me to play.  “Light Flight” was probably the sweetest thing I’d heard up to that point and I was instantly hooked.  I think the group leader was so pleased that I enjoyed the record so much that he gave it to me there and then as a gift, as if he was presenting me with The Bible.  He’d achieved a conversion!  When I later studied the gatefold sleeve, I realised that the band included Bert Jansch, a musician my art teacher had already introduced me to a little earlier.  This LP opened up a Pandora’s Box of goodies that have stayed with me since.  Seeing the original line up of Pentangle at the Royal Festival Hall in 2011, left a lasting memory that will stay with me always.

Singled Out: Fleetwood Mac – Albatross (Blue Horizon 57-3145 – 1968)

For those who were around at the time of the first couple of albums by Fleetwood Mac, later to become known as Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac, mainly to differentiate between the earlier blues band and the later and infinitely more successful rock outfit, the instrumental “Albatross” would have come as something of a surprise.  Gone was the Robert Johnson and Elmore James blues influence in favour of a much more soothing composition, which relates more to the sound of the sea than the urban reality of such earlier songs such as “Shake Your Money Maker” and “Black Magic Woman”.  It was only when the young eighteen year-old Danny Kirwan came onboard that Peter Green was able to complete the composition, having struggled to work with the band’s regular slide guitar player Jeremy Spencer, who didn’t actually play on the single, despite appearing on Top of the Pops at the time miming to the piece.  Played almost constantly on the radio across the UK at the time, “Albatross” holds the distinction of being the band’s only UK number one single.  The tune also gave The Beatles the inspiration for their own instrumental “Sun King”, which would appear on their Abbey Road album almost exactly a year later.

Fifty Years Ago: Santana – Santana (CBS 69015 – September 1971)

Most of us first became aware of Santana after their storming set at the Woodstock festival in 1969, or rather just the one number “Soul Sacrifice” and later with the iconic Abraxas LP from the following year.  Now on a roll, by 1971 came around, the band delivered their third album, which was the last to feature the Woodstock line-up of Carlos Santana, Gregg Rolie, Neal Schon, David Brown, Michael Shrieve, José ‘Chepito’ Areas and Mike Carabello.  Recorded at Columbia Studios in San Francisco, Santana III featured their hit single “Everybody’s Everything”, which sees the band joined by the Tower of Power horn section, giving the song a Blood, Sweat and Tears/Chicago sound, both popular label mates.  Perhaps the most striking thing about this release is the psychedelic artwork, featuring the outstretched hand of an inter-galactic male figure.  Very 1971. 

10 SEPTEMBER 2021

Flick the Dust Off: Various Artists – The Age of Atlantic (Atlantic 2464 013 – 1970)

This was the year before decimalisation, which saw the appearance of an abundance of sampler albums with ‘99’ printed on the gatefold sleeve.  Carrying this iconic sleeve around the school quadrangle wouldn’t have necessarily gone down too well with an establishment populated by dozens of Northern Soul freaks, a handful of Skinheads, the odd Suedehead, the leftovers of what remained of the Mods, together with the one solitary leather-clad Rocker.  No one at school had ever heard of Led Zeppelin, let alone Iron Butterfly, Vanilla Fudge or indeed Buffalo Springfield.  The Age of Atlantic intrigued me.  I was thirteen at the time of this release and had taken to placing my head between two speakers less than a foot apart, turning the Fidelity Stereo system up as far as it would go.  Dad would be unimpressed with the guitar riff of “Black Hearted Woman” as it seeped through to his domain downstairs as he perused the sports pages.  This was the first sampler album I ever bought and was largely responsible for introducing me to the aforementioned bands as well as to Delaney and Bonnie, Dr John, the MC5 and Yes.

Singled Out: Colin Blunstone – Say You Don’t Mind (Epic EPC7765 – 1972)

Orchestrations often get in the way of a good song, unless we’re talking about the likes of “Eleanor Rigby”, “McArthur Park”, “Wichita Lineman” or indeed “Say You Don’t Mind”, where the strings are in fact integral to the arrangement.  There’s something very much appealing about this Denny Laine song, which has a lot to do with Christopher Gunning’s arrangement, which in turn appears to suit Blunstone’s soulful voice perfectly.  Best remembered for his role as the singer with The Zombies in the 1960s, Blunstone subsequently carved out a pretty successful solo career in the early 1970s scoring one or two major hits, this included, before going on to collaborate with Dave Stewart and the Alan Parsons Project.  The opening few bars of this song will always make the hairs on the back of my neck stand up, in a similar manner to those other aforementioned songs.

Fifty Years Ago: The Steve Miller Band – Rock Love (Capitol E-SW 748 – September 1971)

Comprising one side of predominantly live material, recorded in both Hollywood and Pasadena, and the second side made up completely of studio tracks, Rock Love is the Steve Miller Band’s sixth album release on Capitol Records.  Having shed each of the original band members over the course of the five previous albums, Miller continued on with Bobby Winkelman, recruiting members of the bassist’s previous band Frumious Bandersnatch, effectively embarking on a new decade with another blues-based album.  The album was a critical and commercial failure prompting some to refer to it as ‘Rock Bottom’, the tracks almost completely ignored on many of the band’s subsequent compilation albums and retrospectives, although the title track does appear on the 1973 Capitol Records compilation in its Masters of Rock series.  

4 SEPTEMBER 2021

Flick the Dust Off: Bob Dylan – Bringing It All Back Home (CBS 62515 – 1965)

Bringing It All Back Home was the first Dylan album I ever heard, though Greatest Hits Vol II was the first one I actually bought a couple of years later.  If my dad’s small collection consisted predominantly of Benny Goodman and Glenn Miller records and mum’s was made up of records by the likes of Eddie Arnold and Hank Locklin, it was through my dad’s brother’s small collection that I was first introduced to the world of Bob Dylan.  Uncle Paddy had two LPs on the shelf that stood out among the jazz records, this one and an old Sonny Terry and Brownie Mcghee LP.  From the opening few bars of “Subterranean Homesick Blues” through to the last few notes of “It’s All Over Now Baby Blue”, I was immediately hooked.  I was just a kid at the time and to me, the sleeve notes made no sense at all and if I’m honest, they still don’t.  I was so young when I first heard the LP, that the stand out moment for me was initially “Bob Dylan’s 115th Dream”, simply because of its false start, which was and remains a hoot.  This was the first LP that I attempted to memorise all of the lyrics to, which would lead to boring people to death at parties.  Some would say that Bob Dylan couldn’t sing, but those people were the same who found Frank Sinatra interesting.  I rest my case.

Singled Out: Nicky Thomas – Love of the Common People (Trojan TR7750 – 1970)

Nicky Thomas’s reggae version of the folk ballad “Love of the Common People”, written by John Hurley and Ronnie Wilkins, was the only version that held any sway with me back in the early 1970s.  Pop reggae, as opposed to what might be considered the more serious side of the genre, was making a big impact on the UK charts at the time and I tended to stick with the more commercial singles that were around at the time, which included releases by the likes of Desmond Dekker, Bob and Marcia, The Pioneers and Dave and Ansil Collins, not to mention such fine and memorable instrumentals as Harry J. All Stars’ “The Liquidator” and The Upsetters’ “Return of Django”.  Subsequently covered by everyone from Stiff Little Fingers, Bruce Springsteen, Paul Young and even Leonard Nimoy, this version of “Love of the Common People” will always be considered the definitive version, by me at least.

Fifty Years Ago: Sandy Denny – The North Star Grassman and the Ravens (Island ILPS 9165 – September 1971)

The North Star Grassman and the Ravens was the first of four solo albums Sandy Denny released between 1971 and 1977, and the first recorded after the disbandment of her band Fotheringay, which dissolved half way through the recording of the band’s second album.  Produced by Sandy, together with her former Fairport band mate Richard Thompson and noted engineer John Wood, North Star was made up predominantly self-penned songs, such as the gorgeous “Late November”, “Next Time Round” and “Crazy Lady Blues”, with a couple of covers in Bob Dylan’s “Down in the Flood” and the old Alvin Gaines & the Themes 1959 hit “Let’s Jump the Broomstick”, written by Charles Robbins and later covered by Brenda Lee.  Sandy was joined on the album by former Fotheringay musicians Trevor Lucas, Jerry Donahue, Pat Donaldson and Gerry Conway, together with appearances by Richard Thompson, Buddy Emmons and Barry Dransfield among others, with string arrangements by Harry Robinson.

3 SEPTEMBER 2021

Flick the Dust Off: Andy Irvine Paul Brady – Andy Irvine Paul Brady (Mulligan LUN 008 1976)

In the mid 1970s I was so consumed with the blues that just about everything else took a back seat. This went on for a number of years when at times I actually assumed that I might be black, blind and from the Mississippi Delta.  I’d done my prog rock stint and ventured into folk rock briefly and had already seen Led Zeppelin and Fairport Convention and everything in between.  I thought it all came to rest with Big Bill Broonzy.  Then I discovered the folk club scene, attending music nights with my pal at the Corporation Brewery Taps on Cleveland Street in Doncaster with guitar and banjo in our hands.  It was then I discovered acoustic folk music, discovering almost immediately that the music of Ireland had progressed from The Dubliners and The Clancey Brothers and that a musician by the name of Andy Irvine existed.  I borrowed the ‘purple’ album, which also featured Paul Brady and it changed the way I looked at folk music.  An offshoot of the Planxty records, with Donal Lunny producing, Irvine and Brady’s collaboration LP stayed on the turntable for months as I tried in vain to sing “Arthur McBride” like Brady or play the mandolin like Irvine, failing miserably on both counts.

Singled Out: Bob Marley and the Wailers – No Woman, No Cry (Island WIP6244 – 1974)

My own introduction to the music of Bob Marley came through the Old Grey Whistle Test (no surprise there then?) in the early 1970s, although my appreciation for reggae started much earlier through the more pop oriented 45s of Desmond Decker, Dave and Ansil Collins and The Pioneers amongst others, which I would often spin on the Dansette at parties.  The Wailers’ music didn’t seem out of place on the Whistle Test as the mixture was always fairly eclectic, a show where Bob and co would share a cupboard of a stage with the likes of Ry Cooder, Bill Withers and Vinegar Joe.  The appearance of the band was also my introduction to dreadlocks, which was something of a culture shock, or perhaps that should be culture wake up.  I was eager to find out more.  I soon became familiar with the music through albums such as Catch a Fire, Burnin’ and Natty Dread, the album that featured the song “No Woman, No Cry” credited to Vincent Ford, a friend of Marley’s who apparently ran a soup kitchen in Trenchtown in Marley’s Jamaican homeland.  The single version of the song, which would soon be heard around the UK, was in fact a live version taken from the band’s Lyceum Theatre set, recorded on July 19th 1975, almost a year after the song’s initial release on the album.  The song remains one of the best loved of all reggae songs.

Fifty Years Ago: The Band – Cahoots (Capitol E-ST 651 – September 1971)

The fourth studio album release by Dylan’s former touring band simply known as The Band, began to show the first signs of cracks in the system after an impressive run of previously released critically acclaimed albums, their first two of which are now considered classics, Music From Big Pink (1968) and The Band (1969), together with the slightly disappointing third effort, Stagefright (1970).  Cahoots could never really be expected to reach the same sort of heights, with only a handful of tracks worthy of inclusion in subsequent compilations.  The album is notable for featuring a female voice for the first time on a Band album, where Levon Helm’s partner Libby Titus appears some uncredited backing vocals, as well as a memorable collaboration with Van Morrison on the noteworthy “4% Pantomime”, where the grumpy old Belfast Cowboy soulfully duets with the late Richard Manuel.  Perhaps the most memorable of songs on the album is the opener “Life is a Carnival”, which features one of Allen Toussaint’s fine and funky brass arrangements. 

28 AUGUST 2021

Flick the Dust Off: Roger McGuinn – Roger McGuinn (CBS 65274 – 1973)

I had hair pretty much like Roger McGuinn as he appeared on the cover of his debut solo album, an album I bought upon its release in 1973.  This was an image that appeared no less than twenty-nine times on the front cover and a further twenty-eight times on the back.  It was Bob Dylan once again who attracted me to this album, who provided the harmonica on the heavily Dylan influenced opening song “I’m So Restless”.  It was difficult to escape the West Coast influence at the time, with several albums being almost simultaneously released by The Byrds, The Flying Burrito Brothers, The Steve Miller Band and Little Feat, while daytime radio in the UK concerned itself with The Osmonds, David Cassidy and Mud.  Roger McGuinn surrounded himself with a handful of key session players such as Hal Blaine, Spooner Oldham, Jim Gordon and Leyland Sklar, as well as reuniting with David Crosby and Gene Clark.  Writing in partnership with Jacques Levy, one or two of the songs are strong, but it’s probably David Weffen’s “Lost My Driving Wheel” that brings me back to the album every now and then.  A couple of years after this album’s release, Roger would be out on tour with his Bobness himself, helping to roll his thunder.

Singled Out: Carole King – It’s Too Late (AM AMS849 – 1971)

In 1971, as the musical climate rapidly changed, a time when the likes of Creedence Clearwater Revival, Grand Funk Railroad, Sly and the Family Stone and BB King were all likely to appear on the same bill, my own musical sensibilities somehow kept it all pretty much in context, largely due to a willingness to understand the rock press at the time as well as enjoy pop radio and whatever John Peel was dishing out every night on Radio One. Radio was actually an important medium back then as it is now.  Carole King’s Tapestry LP was one of the albums at the time that managed quite effortlessly to appeal to rock and pop audiences alike and the single “It’s Too Late” became one of the most played records of the year.  Both the album and the single became important additions to my record collection. The lyrics of which apparently allude to the end of a relationship King had just had with fellow singer-songwriter James Taylor.

Fifty Years Ago: The Mahavishnu Orchestra with John McLaughlin – The Inner Mounting Flame (Columbia KC31067 – August 1971)

If there was ever a case for noodling, the debut album by The Mahavishnu Orchestra might well qualify.  From the opening piece, “Meetings of the Spirit”, The Inner Mounting Flame took jazz rock to new heights upon its release, with John McLaughlin’s guitar very much to the fore.  Did I say that McLaughlin was born a couple of miles from my doorstep?  By the time of the album’s release, the Doncaster-born guitarist had already notched up some credible collaborations, playing alongside the likes of Alexis Korner, Georgie Fame, Graham Bond, Brian Auger and even Jimi Hendrix before working with Miles Davis on his seminal jazz fusion albums In a Silent Way and Bitches Brew, the latter which included a number entitled “John McLaughlin”.  If McLaughlin dazzled audiences with his sheer dexterity as a formidable guitar player, then much the same could be said of Billy Cobham, whose skills as a first rate jazz drummer were indeed very much the focus for some.  Add to this the remarkable playing of Jan Hammer on piano, Jerry Goodman on violin and Rick Laird on bass, The Mahavishnu Orchestra were something very much to write home about.

27 AUGUST 2021

Flick the Dust Off: Doc and Merle Watson – Red Rocking Chair (Flying Fish FF252 – 1981)

I first heard Doc and Merle Watson’s Red Rocking Chair in the early 1980s on a vinyl LP which lived in Doncaster Central Music Library. I borrowed it and didn’t want to give it back. I thought I had struck gold or found the holy grail or something. It was one of those defining moments when I realised Country, Folk, Jazz, Old Time music etc was all one and the same thing.  I also realised that my pretensions of being a guitar player were way off the mark. It was one of those ‘back to the drawing board’ moments.  At the time I was just discovering folk clubs with my pal Malc and we ‘borrowed’ one or two of the songs from this LP to get us started, “Mole in the Ground” and the title track included.  A few years later both Doc and I lost our musical partners, Malc died of a heart attack in 1988 and Merle Watson, Doc’s son, was killed in a tragic farm accident.  I suppose these songs ended up meaning quite a lot to the both of us.

Singled Out: Jefferson Starship – Count on Me (Grunt GB-11506 – 1978)

I never completely (or indeed dutifully) followed Jefferson Airplane into the space age era after Starship rose out of the ashes of the popular sixties San Francisco-based psychedelic outfit.  This was largely down to my ongoing disdain for the sort of music that would be commonly labelled ‘soft rock’, a genre that was alarmingly plentiful during the mid to late 1970s, stretching well into the 1980s.  The lighter-waving rock anthems that came with it, such as the awful “We Built This City” could stay in the record shop as far as I was concerned, along with countless others.  However, a slightly earlier incarnation of the Jefferson Starship did release one rather engaging and highly melodic Jesse Barish ballad as a single in the spring of 1978, taken from the band’s fourth album Earth.  The lead vocal on “Count on Me” was delivered by the late Marty Balin, with the rest of the band joining in on the chorus, to which Mrs W and I would croon along to on long journeys.

Fifty Years Ago: Gilbert O’Sullivan – Himself (Mam MAM-SS 501 – August 1971)

Himself is the debut album by the Waterford-born, Swindon-raised singer-songwriter Raymond O’Sullivan, otherwise known as ‘Gilbert’, which came hot on the heels of the hit single “Nothing Rhymed”, which closes the first side of the album.  Although the singer became a favourite of mums and dads as the new decade began, which was probably due to his irritating stage persona, an image that saw the singer approach his piano in short pants, braces and an oversized depression-era cloth cap perched upon his pudding basin hairdo.  It might also have had something to do with the jaunty music hall sing-along chorus aspect of his performance, but it has to acknowledged, O’Sullivan could in fact write a clever lyric and did so time and again, prompting at least one critic to suggest that he might be Swindon’s answer to Randy Newman.  Produced by Gordon Mills, who talked the singer into including full orchestral arrangements on this album, originally intended as a stripped down to voice and piano album, Himself soon reached number five on the British album charts and is also noted for the contributions from both Chris Spedding and Herbie Flowers.  Fifty years on, O’Sullivan has released nineteen studio albums and has now pretty much done away with the cap and braces.

21 AUGUST 2021

Flick the Dust Off: Arizona Smoke Revue – A Thundering on the Horizon (Rola R006 – 1981)

In 1987 I attended the Cropredy Festival, Fairport Convention’s annual celebratory bash, specifically to catch an acoustic set by John Martyn and Danny Thompson on the Friday night.  I was running slightly late and could hear the wailing fiddle of Le Rue over the meadows as dusk settled upon the Oxfordshire meadows.  Throughout the weekend, the sound tech appeared to have a very limited stash of records to play between acts, therefore the Arizona Smoke Revue’s “Border Song” was played almost on repeat, a song that features a fine guitar solo courtesy of Richard Thompson.  I grew to love the song and had it pretty much down by the end of the weekend.  The band consisted of Bill Zorn, Phil Beer, Paul Downes and a character by the name of Gene Vogel, a pseudonym I understand Steve Knightley went under at the time.  A Thundering on the Horizon also includes an exceptional acoustic version of the underrated Beatles song “Rain”, featuring some fine vocal harmonies and a banjo leading the way, together with an a capella Springsteen song.  They don’t make records like this any more.

Singled Out: Lindisfarne – Meet Me on the Corner (Charisma CB173 – 1971)

I could never understand why the North East band Lindisfarne was labelled under the Progressive Rock banner in the early 1970s, other than the band having a tenuous connection of being signed to the famous Charisma label, a notable Prog label, which also had on its roster Genesis, The Nice, Van der Graaf Generator, Rare Bird and curiously Monty Python. I first discovered Lindisfarne when they appeared on the Old Grey Whistle Test in 1971, which featured the classic line-up of Ray Jackson on lead vocals and harmonica, the song’s author Rod Clements on bass, Simon Cowe on acoustic twelve string, Ray Laidlaw on a big bass drum and hidden away somewhere in the background Alan Hull on piano, sporting a Newcastle United football shirt.  The song, which tipped its hat somewhere in the direction of Bob Dylan’s “Mr Tambourine Man” was memorably played on my transistor radio on the school bus on the way to some sporting event or other across town.

Fifty Years Ago: John Prine – John Prine (Atlantic SD8296 – August 1971)

Like many of us, John Prine came to us once again through the Old Grey Whistle Test and specifically the song “Sam Stone”, whose working title was the slightly more cumbersome “Great Society Conflict Veterans Blues”, with it’s instantly memorable chorus of ‘There’s a hole in daddy’s arm, where all the money goes’.  Whether there was a rush to go out the next day to buy Prine’s self-titled debut is anyone’s guess, but the song certainly pricked up many an ear.  There’s no mention of the Vietnam war in the song’s lyrics, though arriving at a crucial point in the conflict, it was hard to think otherwise.  The cover sees Prine perched upon a bale of hay, something he’d not done prior to this photograph and in effect, having the country hick foisted upon him unwittingly.  A more suitable cover would possibly have been something along the lines of Loudon Wainwright’s first couple of albums.  Stoic, unsmiling, serious.  Released on the Atlantic label after being spotted by Jerry Wexler at the BitterEnd, John Prine features song that would remain in his live repertoire for the best part of the next half century up to the singer’s death in 2020 of COVID, such as “Illegal Smile”, “Paradise” and the timeless “Angel of Montgomery”.

20 AUGUST 2021

Flick the Dust Off: Ry Cooder – Chicken Skin Music (Reprise REP54083 – 1976)

Ry Cooder’s brief stint with the Captain was a long forgotten nightmare by the time Chicken Skin Music was released in the hot summer of 1976.  There had been four solo Cooder albums leading up to this in the early 1970s, each of which explored the roots of American music, including blues (Ry Cooder), folk, blues and calypso (Into the Purple Valley, Boomer’s Story, Paradise and Lunch) and then finally we arrived at this delightful collaboration with what could be considered the cream of Tex Mex musicians, including Flaco Jiménez, Gabby Pahinui and Atta Isaacs.  Chicken Skin Music (the UK equivalent probably being ‘Goosebump Music’) was a fine introduction to this kind of music, Flaco’s accordion playing a prominent role throughout the record.  After being somewhat transfixed by Cooder’s appearance on the Old Grey Whistle Test a couple of years earlier, where the musician could be seen playing both bottleneck guitar and mandolin on Woody Guthrie’s “Vigilante Man” and Sleepy John Estes’ “Goin’ to Brownsville” respectively, I was eager to see the new band perform some of these songs on the show towards the end of the show’s classic period, where Cooder doesn’t disappoint.  It wasn’t until much later, sometime in the 1990s, that I finally got to see the man in action in Manchester, sharing the stage at the Apollo with David Lindley.  To this day, I have no idea what’s going on in the cover picture.

Singled Out: Matthews Southern Comfort – Woodstock (UNI UNS526 – 1970)

I always believed that it was something of a bold move to cover this Joni Mitchell song, but over the years the song has been done rather successfully on numerous occasions and a complete failure on others.  Matthews Southern Comfort, fronted by ex-Fairport Convention singer Iain Matthews, did surprisingly well with their cover of “Woodstock”, the song written by Mitchell in celebration of the iconic festival that she didn’t actually manage to attend. When the film came out, Crosby Stills Nash and Young provided a rock version of the song, which was used over the closing credits.  Apparently Matthews discovered the song on Mitchell’s then latest album release, Ladies of the Canyon, the week before a BBC In Concert special was aired, which featured the band who had added the song to their set list at the last minute.  So good was the response, the song was then recorded and released as a single shortly afterwards, becoming possibly the definitive and most accessible version of the song.

Fifty Years Ago: Atomic Rooster – In Hearing Of (Pegasus PEG 1 – August 1971)

The British rock band Atomic Rooster first hit my radar in the early 1970s when I was still buying exclusively 45s, which included the band’s two hits on the B&C record label,  “Tomorrow Night” from 1970 and “Devil’s Answer” from the following year.  Formed from the ashes of The Crazy World of Arthur Brown, organist Vincent Crane and drummer Carl Palmer, the keyboard player was to be the band’s only constant member in subsequent years, until his death by suicide in 1989.  Following the success of the band’s first two albums in 1970, Atomic Rooster and Death Walks Behind You, In Hearing Of was helped along by the popularity of the single “Devil’s Answer”, despite the song not actually included on the LP until much later reissues, although it was included on its initial US release.  Shortly after the release of this album, John Cann and Paul Hammond left the band, as the band moved ever closer to a more soul/funk sensibility, bringing in Chris Farlowe, Steve Bolton and Ric Parnell for their next record Made in England

13 AUGUST 2021

Flick the Dust Off: Tim Buckley – Happy Sad (Elekra K42072 – 1969)

The first time I saw Tim Buckley was on the Old Grey Whistle Test, performing his version of Fred Neil’s “Dolphins”.  Being an almost fanatical devotee of The Monkees back in the late 1960s, I would have undoubtedly seen Tim perform “Song to the Siren” in episode 68 of their zany cult TV show, but it probably wouldn’t have registered at the time.  It would’ve meant nothing to a ten year-old fan of the pre-fab four, eagerly awaiting the next hilariously childish skit.  In the 1970s, Tim Buckley would pop up on sampler LPs here and there such as Elektra’s Begin Here, therefore I would’ve been aware of one or two songs by then.  I didn’t actually take notice until later, when I discovered the real genius of this performer on his second album Goodbye and Hello, released in 1967.  This led directly to the third and still my favourite, Happy Sad.  This album is probably Tim’s most atmospheric album, which shamelessly borrows from the cool jazz of Miles Davis in places and in my opinion never really ages.  A good starting place for newcomers.

Singled Out: Fairport Convention – Now Be Thankful (Island WIP6089 – 1970)

The first time I heard the folk rock outfit Fairport Convention was via a Track sampler LP, which featured the earlier “If I Had a Ribbon Bow”  featuring the voice of the late Judy Dyble.  The Island sampler Bumpers, released a little later, featured the infectious chorus of “Walk a While”, both songs which drew me in as a curious observer.  Within a short period of time I had the band’s retrospective double LP set, The History of Fairport Convention, which in turn introduced me to such songs as “Fotheringay”, “Crazy Man Michael” and “Matty Groves”.  One of the songs included on History was Richard Thompson and Dave Swarbrick’s hymn-like “Now Be Thankful”, with Swarb taking the lead vocal.  Tony Palmer’s contemporary film documentary Live in Maidstone 1970 featured the Full House line-up performing this song, while army helicopters circled above the festival site.  The single, which was released on the original pink Island label, is curious in that the B-side has one of the longest titles in the history of 45s, (deep breath) “Sir B. McKenzie’s Daughter’s Lament For The 77th Mounted Lancers Retreat From The Straits Of Loch Knombe, In The Year Of Our Lord 1727, On The Occasion Of The Announcement Of Her Marriage To The Laird Of Kinleakie”.  The A side however restricted its title to the much more label conducive three words, thankfully.

Fifty Years Ago: The Mothers – Fillmore East June 1971 (Reprise K44150 – August 1971)

Recorded on both June 5–6, 1971, with further recordings from an earlier show in Michigan the month before, Fillmore East June 1971 is a live album by Frank Zappa’s band The Mothers, which showcased the band’s bawdy humour, especially concerning the on the road shenanigans of a rock and roll band, complete with groupies, motel rooms and a rare outing of The Turtles hit with a bullet, “Happy Together”.  Perhaps the main focus of this album is the lengthy stage piece “The Mud Shark”, which was a showcase for the sleazy humour Zappa would later be known for.  Once past the fun aspect of the concert and subsequent album release, there are one or two fine musical moments, notably an outing of Zappa’s recent showstopper, “Peaches En Regalia”, the opening track to possibly Zappa’s finest album of his career, 1970s Hot Rats.

6 AUGUST 2021

Flick the Dust Off: Whippersnapper – Promises (WPS WPS001 – 1985)

By the mid-1980s, I was pretty much immersed in the local folk club scene in Doncaster and eager to assist in helping to book some of the great acoustic acts in the country at the time, artists such as Martin Simpson, Martin Carthy, Clive Gregson and Christine Collister, Jo Anne Kelly and such like.  When Dave Swarbrick’s new acoustic band Whippersnapper burst onto the scene with their debut album in the mid 1980s, they quickly rose to the top of my wish list and I, along with a bunch of friends, arranged for the band to come and play for us at the Corporation Brewery Taps on Cleveland Street close by the town centre.  They were probably one of the most exciting bands on the scene at the time and I made every effort to see them as often as I could during their existence, especially when they were a four piece, which also included Martin Jenkins, Kevin Dempsey and Chris Leslie.  The band provided many good memories and as a live band, they were in a league of their own, although I do confess to playing their albums rarely these days.

Singled Out: Carly Simon – You’re So Vain (Elektra K12077 – 1972)

The first time I heard Carly Simon’s “You’re So Vain” was without doubt on Radio One in 1972, yet my abiding memory of the song was listening to it almost constantly via the jukebox in the subterranean bar beneath the  Silver Link pub along Bradford Row every Friday night throughout 1973.  There was something about the song that found favour among everyone around that time, inviting multiple suggestions of who the song might be about. Carly Simon herself revealed Warren Beatty to be the most likely candidate, though rumour has it that it may also have been Mick Jagger, in part confused by the fact that the Stones’ front man also sings on the chorus.  Produced by Richard Perry and taken from Simon’s best selling album No Secrets, the iconic guitar solo was played by Jimmy Ryan, who claims it was recorded in one take, though Perry disputes this.  The equally iconic bass part was played by Klaus Voorman, which has subsequently been sampled, notably on Janet Jackson’s “Son of a Gun (I Betcha Think This Song Is About You)”.  “You’re So Vain” is one of those songs that immediately transports me back to 1972 quicker than a DeLorean DMC-12.

Fifty Years Ago: The Who – Who’s Next (Polydor 076 176-1 – August 1971)

It was upon hearing “Won’t Get Fooled Again” for the first time that initially drew me to the Who’s Next album, a rock anthem if ever there was one, which was played often on the radio at the time, albeit in a rather shorter version than the epic album track.  The album’s notorious cover shot of a 2001: A Space Odyssey-styled monolith, which all four members of the band had recently relieved themselves against, brings a certain attitude to the record a good six years before the arrival of Punk.  Although the album appears to be a fully formed finished product, it was in fact cobbled together from remnants of Pete Townshend’s abandoned Lifehouse project, which included the use of synthesisers, particularly on “Baba O’Riley”, the iconic opening track.  All the songs on the album were written by Pete Townshend, with the exception of John Entwistle’s “My Wife”, which doesn’t feel at all out of place.  The album remains one of the milestones of British rock and was re-issued in 2003 as a three-disc LP set, which included live performances at the Young Vic as well as a New York Record Plant session.  Other notable tracks include “Bargain”, “The Song is Over” and “Behind Blue Eyes”.

23 JULY 2021

Flick the Dust Off: The Jimmy Giuffre Trio – The Train and the River (Atlantic Special 590011 – 1958)

One of the most memorable moments in the film documentary of the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival is the opening title sequence, where familiar names such as Louis Armstrong, Thelonious Monk, Sonny Stitt, Dinah Washington, Gerry Mulligan, Chuck Berry and Mahalia Jackson (to name but a few) are credited over several arty shots of the Newport Riviera, where abstract rippling waters can be observed, while the Jimmy Giuffre Trio play their iconic cool jazz hit “The Train and the River” at breakneck speed.  I can’t remember where I first picked up this LP, most probably a dusty old second hand record shop in Yorkshire, but I do recall being slightly disappointed at the relatively slow pace of the title track, being used to the Newport live version.  The trio in both the film and LP versions feature Giuffre on sax and Jim Hall on guitar, although the bottom end differs slightly with Bob Brookmeyer in the film playing trombone, while Ralph Pena plays the bass on this LP.  I’ve subsequently warmed to the slower, more deliberate version here and tend to feel the live version too rushed.  A little snippet from the tune also features on one of the tracks on the debut LP by Bert Jansch.

Singled Out: Duncan Browne – Journey (RAK 135 – 1972)

I was just fifteen when Duncan Browne’s uplifting acoustic classic “Journey” hit the charts in 1972.  Trained as a Classical guitarist, the English singer-songwriter’s unusual style seemed to provide a welcome change to some of the pop fodder around at the time, in fact the single was voted the most unusual single of the year.  During the summer of 1972 I was on holiday in North Wales with a bunch of friends from my local youth club and this bedsit song became pretty much the soundtrack of that life-changing week; little wonder that the song, with its beautifully cascading classical guitar patterns still resonates with me to this day.  Duncan Browne released five albums in his short life and is also responsible for the music for the TV series Travelling Man in 1985.  Many of his songs have also been covered by such artists as Patti Smith, Ian Matthews, Colin Blunstone and most notably David Bowie, who recorded his song “Criminal World” back in 1983.  The singer died from cancer in 1993 aged just 46.

Fifty Years Ago: Jack Bruce – Harmony Row (Polydor 2310 107 – July 1971)

By the time 1971 came along, the former Cream singer and bassist was onto his third solo album, following the previous year’s Things We Like and his 1969 debut Songs for a Tailor.  With a title taken from a Glasgow street, close to where Bruce spent his childhood, Harmony Row is made up entirely of songs co-written by lyricist Peter Brown.  “The Consul at Sunset” is a stand out song, a song inspired by the novel Under the Volcano Malcolm Lowry, with some lilting Latin grooves, reminiscent of the Buena Vista Social Club, which was released as a single around the same time.  In other places, Cream’s sound creeps in, mainly through Bruce’s distinctive voice, yet the overall sound comes over more like a hybrid of Traffic and Family, two contemporary bands of the day.  Most of the instruments are played by Bruce with just a little help from Chris Spedding on guitar and John Marshall on drums.

16 JULY 2021

Flick the Dust Off: Various Artists – Bumpers (Island IDP1 – 1970)

I don’t actually recall where I picked up the Bumpers double sampler LP from, quite possibly Ken’s Swap Shop along St Sepulchre Gate in Doncaster.  Unlike Foxes Records, where you could listen to new records in one of their little wooden sound booths before deciding to buy, you had to take your chances at Ken’s.  Sampler albums were by far the best way of hearing new bands and artists at the time and I always felt that the label was more of an attraction than the actual music within.  If the sampler was on the Harvest label or Chrysalis, Charisma, Vertigo or indeed Island, then the content would almost always be guaranteed to hit the mark.  This particular double sampler LP was my introduction to the likes of Nick Drake, Mott the Hoople, King Crimson, John and Beverley Martyn, If, Blodwyn Pig and many others, although I was already well aware of Cat Stevens, Free and Jethro Tull by the time this LP was released.  Most of the tracks were recorded in 1970 but I dare say I picked up this album a little later.  It’s still a record I like to pop on the turntable every now and then, which always takes me right back to the early Seventies.  I also had my own pair of ‘bumpers’, an almost obligatory item of footwear.

Singled Out: Frijid Pink – The House of the Rising Sun (Deram DM288 – 1970)

I first became aware of the Detroit band Frijid Pink in the late 1960s when I first heard their re-working of this old American folk song.  Bob Dylan had a bash at the song on his debut LP back in 1962, which was apparently based on an arrangement by Dave Van Ronk.  A couple of years later, The Animals recorded possibly the definitive version of the song, which featured the late Hilton Valentine’s guitar arpeggios and Alan Price’s driving Vox Continental organ.  However, tastes were changing by the late 1960s and rock music had reached a new level, with a much harder sound beginning to develop.  Frijid Pink, a band formed in 1967, recorded this psychedelic version of the song as an almost throw away recording, having found some spare time left over in the studio.  The single went on to be played on UK radio quite a lot in 1970 the year of its release and reached number four in the UK charts.

Fifty Years Ago: Black Sabbath – Master of Reality (Vertigo 6350-050 – July 1971)

The third album by Black Sabbath originally came in an embossed envelope sleeve and was released on the iconic swirling Vertigo label, a more than suitable image for this Midlands heavy rock outfit.  The silver metal crucifix, ten times larger than the ones worn by devoted Christians up and down the country soon became part of a fifteen year-old’s daily attire.  Master of Reality was slightly disappointing after the band’s self-titled debut and its popular follow up Paranoid, which featured the surprising hit single of the same name.  Despite its initial negative response from critics, the album is now considered one of the best heavy metal albums of all time.  The initial sound we hear at the beginning of the opening song “Sweet Leaf” is guitarist Tony Iommi coughing after taking a drag on a particularly potent spliff. 

9 JULY 2021

Flick the Dust Off: Martin Simpson – Golden Vanity (Trailer LER 2099 – 1976)

When Martin Simpson wrote ‘Best Wishes, Martin Simpson, 32 years on’ across the reverse of this record sleeve, I realised that it had indeed taken the best part of three decades for me to get him to sign it.  I’d seen the guitarist on stage at least a dozen times before I shoved this particular record under his nose prior to a show in Rotherham, midway through changing the strings on his two guitars.  “I always change my strings before each show” he revealed, going on to say “Paul Simon apparently changes his strings before each set!”  Although I already had a good few Martin Simpson LPs by this time, each dutifully signed, it occurred to me that I should really complete the set and have him scribble on this one.  It was during the time when the old LP format had virtually disappeared in favour of the comparably dull CD, almost undeserving of a signature.  Bill Leader produced this particular LP, while Barbara Dickson wrote the sleeve notes, referring to the guitarist as a ‘strong and original new talent’.  Golden Vanity features both traditional and contemporary material, notably Martin’s original version of Randy Newman’s “Louisiana 1927”, which he would later re-record for the CD generation.

Singled Out: Lennon/Ono – Instant Karma (Apple 1003 – 1970)

When I first heard John Lennon’s single “Instant Karma”, performed on Top of the Pops way back in 1970, I was immediately struck by the power of the performance and its dominating drum fills, courtesy of Alan White, not to mention the song’s uncompromising lyrics, while the freshly shorn Yoko attempted something typically ‘arty’ on a stool between her husband and bass player Klaus Voorman.  Once I got hold of the single itself, which I picked up from Fox’s Records shortly afterwards, I was delighted with the fact that Apple had printed ‘play loud’ in bold capitals on the label, as if I had to be asked twice, and something I certainly did once I had the record on the turntable.  The B side however, Yoko’s “Who Has Seen the Wind?” had ‘play quiet’ printed on the ‘cut apple’ side to which I took one step further and didn’t play at all.  The single seemed to herald in the end of the Beatles and the arrival of a new musical dawn, which as we all know, wasn’t to last that long, with all the in-fighting and animosity between Lennon and McCartney and finally the tragic murder of the musician in New York just ten years later.

Fifty Years Ago: Fanny – Charity Ball (Reprise RS-6456 – July 1971)

This is the all-female California band that made British Disc Jockeys nervous, each regularly fluffing their pronunciations.  Of course the band’s name had slightly less risqué connotations back home and here, their second album is dressed as an invitation to join the party.  I first heard the band on the Fruity sampler, released on Warner Brothers in 1972, where the band rubbed shoulders with the likes of Van Morrison, Ry Cooder, Alice Cooper and Curved Air.  Charity Ball was produced by Richard Perry, with the original line-up of Alice de Buhr on drums, Jean Millington on bass, Nickey Barclay on keyboards and June Millington on guitars, each of the women chipping in on the rock warbling.  The album was almost entirely self-penned with the exception of a cover of Stephen Stills Buffalo Brothers era “Special Care”.

4 JULY 2021

Flick the Dust Off: McDonald and Giles – McDonald and Giles (Island ILPS 9126 – 1970)

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

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.

3 JULY 2021

Flick the Dust Off: Genesis – Trespass (Charisma CAS 1020 – 1970)

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

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.

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.

25 JUNE 2021

Flick the Dust Off: Mott the Hoople – Mad Shadows (Island Records ILPS 9119 – 1970)

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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? 

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”.

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.

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.

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?   

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.

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.  

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.  

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.

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.

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”.

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.

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”.

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. 

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.

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.

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.

20 FEBRUARY 2021

Flick the Dust Off: Dusty Springfield – Dusty in Memphis (Mercury 5707137 – 1969)

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

Singled Out: Strawbs – Lay Down (A&M AMS7035 – 1972)

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

19 FEBRUARY 2021

Flick the Dust Off: Steely Dan – Can’t Buy a Thrill (ABC ABCL 5024 – 1972)

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

Singled Out: James Taylor – You’ve Got a Friend (Warner Bros K16085 – 1971)

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

12 FEBRUARY 2021

Flick the Dust Off: Roy Harper – Flat Baroque and Berserk (Harvest SHVL766)

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

Singled Out: Area Code 615 – Stone Fox Chase (Polydor 2066-249 – 1970)

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

5 FEBRUARY 2021

Flick the Dust Off: Rickie Lee Jones – Rickie Lee Jones (Warner Bros K56628 – 1979)

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

Singled Out: The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band – I’m the Urban Spaceman (Liberty LBF 15144 – 1968)

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

29 JANUARY 2021

Flick the Dust Off: Nic Jones – Penguin Eggs (Topic 12TS411 – 1980)

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

Singled Out: Alice Cooper – School’s Out (Warner Bros K16188 – 1972)

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

22 JANUARY 2021

Flick the Dust Off: Captain Beefheart & the Magic Band – Lick My Decals Off Baby (Straight STS 1063 – 1970)

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

Singled Out: Redbone – Witch Queen of New Orleans (Epic SEPC1154 – 1971)

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

15 JANUARY 2021

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

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

Singled Out: The Move – Brontosaurus (Regal Zonophone RZ 3026 – 1970)

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

8 JANUARY 2021

Flick the Dust Off: Kevin Coyne – Marjory Razor Blade (Virgin VD251/2 – 1973)

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

Singled Out: Eric Burdon and War – Spill the Wine (MCA 14118 – 1970)

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

1 JANUARY 2021

Flick the Dust Off: Syd Barrett – The Madcap Laughs (Harvest SHVL765 – 1970)

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

Singled Out: Dave Brubeck Quartet – Take Five (Fontana H339 – 1959)

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

25 DECEMBER 2020

Flick the Dust Off: Livingston Taylor – Liv (Warner Brothers K 46131 – 1971)

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

Singled Out: Jethro Tull – The Witch’s Promise (Chrysalis WIP 6077 – 1969)

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

18 DECEMBER 2020

Flick the Dust Off: Led Zeppelin – Led Zeppelin IV (Atlantic 2401012 – 1971)

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

Singled Out: Family – In My Own Time (Reprise K14090 – 1971)

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

11 DECEMBER 2020

Flick the Dust Off: Dan Hicks and His Hot Licks – Striking It Rich (Blue Thumb Records ILPS9204 – 1972)

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

Singled Out: Free – All Right Now (Island WIP 6082 – 1970)

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

4 DECEMBER 2020

Flick the Dust Off: Little Feat – Sailin’ Shoes (Warner Brothers BS2600 – 1972)

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

Singled Out: Focus – Sylvia (Polydor 2001-422 – 1972)

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

27 NOVEMBER 2020

Flick the Dust Off: Gene Clark – No Other (Asylum 7E-1016 – 1974)

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

Singled Out: Curved Air – Back Street Luv (Warner Brothers K16092 – 1971)

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

20 NOVEMBER 2020

Flick the Dust Off: David Crosby – If I Could Only Remember My Name (Atlantic K40320 – 1971)

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

Singled Out: Fleetwood Mac – Oh Well Parts I and II (Reprise RS27000 – 1969)

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

13 NOVEMBER 2020

Flick the Dust Off: Third Ear Band – Alchemy (Harvest SHVL 756 -1969)

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

Singled Out: Three Dog Night – Mama Told Me Not to Come (Stateside SS8052 – 1970)

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

6 NOVEMBER 2020

Flick the Dust Off: Various Artists – Woodstock Original Soundtrack (Atlantic K60001 – 1970)

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

Singled Out: Ten Years After – Love Like a Man (Deram DM299 – 1970)

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

30 OCTOBER 2020

Flick the Dust Off: Incredible String Band – The Hangman’s Beautiful Daughter (Elektra EKS74021 – 1968)

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

Singled Out: Scott McKenzie – San Francisco (CBS 2816 – 1967)

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

23 OCTOBER 2020

Flick the Dust Off: Amazing Blondel – England (Island ILPS9205 – 1972)

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

Singled Out: The Kinks – Waterloo Sunset (Pye 7N 17321 – 1967)

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

16 OCTOBER 2020

Flick the Dust Off: John Renbourn – John Renbourn (Transatlantic TRA135 – 1966)

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

Singled Out: Bob and Marcia – Young, Gifted and Black (Harry J HJ6605 – 1970)

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

9 OCTOBER 2020

Flick the Dust Off: Bert Jansch – Bert Jansch (Transatlantic TRA125 – 1965)

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

Singled Out: Jimi Hendrix Experience – Voodoo Chile (Track 2095 001 – 1968)

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

2 OCTOBER 2020

Flick the Dust Off: Kate and Anna McGarrigle – Kate and Anna McGarrigle (Warner Brothers K56218 – 1976)

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

Singled Out: Creedence Clearwater Revival – Up Around the Bend (Liberty LBF15354 – 1970)

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

25 SEPTEMBER 2020

Flick the Dust Off: The Roches – The Roches (Warner Brothers K56683 – 1979)

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

Singled Out: Jr Walker and the All Stars – Sweet Soul (Tamla Motown TMG637 – 1967)

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

18 SEPTEMBER 2020

Flick the Dust Off: The Jimi Hendrix Experience – Smash Hits (Polydor ACB 00219 – 1968)

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

Singled Out: Thunderclap Newman – Something in the Air (Track Records 604031 – 1969)

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

11 SEPTEMBER 2020

Flick the Dust Off: The Shadows – The Shadows (Columbia SX1374 – 1961)

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

Singled Out: Joe Cocker – Delta Lady (Regal Zonophone RZ3024 – 1969)

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