Vinyl Memories | 051-075

051 | 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”.

052 | 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. 

053 | 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.

054 | 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”.

055 | 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.

056 | 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

057 | 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”.

058 | 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.

059 | 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.

060 | 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. 

061 | 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.

062 | 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.  

063 | 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. 

064 | 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. 

065 | 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.

066 | 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.

067 | 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.

068 | 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.

069 | 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.

070 | 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.

071 | 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.

072 | 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.

073 | 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.

074 | 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.

075 | 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.