Vinyl Memories | 126-150

126 | 16 DECEMBER 2022

Flick the Dust Off | Jonathan Kelly | Wait Till They Change the Backdrop | RCASF8353 | 1973

For the circle of faithful fans who gathered around Jonathan Kelly upon the release of the Irish singer’s breakthrough LP Twice Around the Houses, the follow up album, once again released on the RCA label, would’ve been eagerly awaited.  Presented in a smart gatefold sleeve, Wait Till They Change the Backdrop seemed to continue where the last LP left off, with more of the same highly melodic songs, such as the crowd-pleasing “Godas”, which features guest singers Gavin and Iain Sutherland, whose own success in The Sutherland Brothers was just around the corner.  The song would become a feature at live shows at the time and then again as recently as 2007, where Jonathan still invited audience members to get up on stage to join him as his Bandits for the song.  Guitarist Tim Renwick also lends his unmistakable talents on both electric and acoustic guitars, a sound that would become more prominent in the Sutherland Brothers and Quiver sound.  The country-inflected “Down on Me” is one of the highlights here, not only an album stand out but a career stand out too.  Produced by Ken Scott, Wait Till They Change the Backdrop remains highly listenable almost fifty years on, with some fine performances throughout.  Sadly, there’s little evidence today of the extraordinary mark this charismatic musician made on early 1970s folk club and festival audiences.  We sadly lost the singer in 2020 so perhaps a resurgence of interest is due.

Singled Out | Jethro Tull | Life’s a Long Song | Chrysalis WIP6106 | 1971

In 1971, the little orange box appeared to be crammed with a steadily growing collection of rock 45s and EPs, each numbered and then cross referenced on a card stuck to the inside lid.  I can’t remember which number I allocated Jethro Tull’s “Life’s a Long Song”, but it would no doubt have been somewhere in the middle of the box.  The gentle acoustic song was typical of the band’s early 70s sound, with a crisp and clear acoustic guitar augmented by piano, together with a rich string arrangement, steadily building throughout with one or two familiar flute flurries towards the end.  The song itself was worth the price, yet there’s no fewer than four additional tracks on this EP, the whimsical “Up the Pool” completing the first side, where mum’s jam sarnies and Aunt Flo beckoned the singer home for a freaky weekend in Blackpool, together with “Doctor Bogenbroom”, “From Later” and “Nursie” on the flip side, all five songs making up most of the final side of the band’s then current double album set Living in the Past.  Keeping to the 45rpm, even for three separate tracks on the second side, the disk was still fit for jukebox purposes and would frequently get a spin at the local pub.

Fifty Years Ago | Pretty Things | Freeway Madness | Warner Bros K46190 | December 1972

I always found this band’s moniker amusing; a less pretty bunch you could wish to meet.  The band was still going strong when I met up with front man Phil May back in 2011, together with guitarist Dick Taylor, confirming that age had done nothing to enhance their proposed aesthetic credentials.  Despite this small detail, the band’s output, from their early blues days through their adventurous pop opera period and on through their early 1970s rock fare, has always provided one or two surprises over the years.  Boasting the release of the first rock opera, SF Sorrow, which popped up a few months before The Who’s legendary Tommy, the band claimed some credentials that would serve them in the next decade, where rock music made some initial headway.   Freeway Madness came along in the early 1970s amidst other such albums, with even John Peel playing the riff-laden “Onion Soup” on his late night show, complete with the ”Another Bowl” coda, prompting a visit to the record shop shortly afterwards.  Judging by the scribble on the dust sleeve, I picked up my copy in 1973 and it still comes out to play almost fifty years on.

127 | 23 DECEMBER 2022

Flick the Dust Off | The Watersons | Frost and Fire | Topic 12T136 | 1965

It wasn’t until 1987 that I first got a chance to see The Watersons, the celebrated singing family band from Hull, despite having a couple of old LPs in my collection.  One of those LPs was Frost and Fire, an LP that takes us through a year’s calendar, with songs that accompanied the ceremonies, rituals and celebrations season by season.  The original line up was siblings Mike, Norma and Lal Waterson, with their cousin John Harrison.  After seeing the band on this occasion at the Rockingham Arms in Wentworth, with newest member Rachel Waterson, Mike’s daughter, and by then the long-time replacement for cousin John, Norma’s husband Martin Carthy, I was pleased to be present at the band’s second appearance at the Cambridge Folk Festival in 1989, celebrating the festival’s 25th year. As far as folk singing family bands go, The Watersons are a hard act to follow, and some of the songs on this LP remain as important and as exciting today, an unbelievable fifty-seven years on.

Singled Out | John and Yoko The Plastic Ono Band | Happy Xmas (War is Over) | Apple R5970 | 1971

There are more than a handful of enduring Christmas songs that come out to play each year, many of which were recorded around the same time, the early 1970s, perhaps the golden age of the seasonal pop song.  Barely a year had passed since the biggest break up of all, when John and Yoko filled the airwaves with not just any old Christmas song, but one with a strong message of peace and optimism.  Originally conceived as a protest song against America’s involvement in the war in Viet Nam, the song has subsequently become a popular seasonal song, featuring Lennon’s band, his wife and the Harlem Community Choir, made up of around thirty children.  Even the specially created Apple label had temporarily ditched the core of the fruit to feature the merging faces of these two love birds, again suggesting unity in uncertain times. 

Fifty Years Ago | Martin Carthy | Shearwater | Pegasus PEG12 | December 1972

Shearwater was released in late 1972 on the Pegasus label and was Martin Carthy’s seventh album, sandwiched between 1971’s Landfall and 1974’s Sweet Wivelsfield.  It could also be described as Carthy’s dulcimer album, the instrument making several appearances throughout the ten-song set.  From the outset, the instrument takes centre stage, enthusiastically strummed throughout the short but vibrant “I Was a Young Man”, which also features Carthy’s multi-tracked vocal.  Not long free of the ranks of Steeleye Span, Carthy returns to his acoustic roots, with a couple of unaccompanied songs back to back, “Banks of Green Willow” and “Handsome Polly-O”, before his distinctive guitar playing returns for “Outlandish Knight”.   After one more unaccompanied song, a fine reading of  “He Called for a Candle”, Carthy concludes side one with “John Blunt”, complete with a confident guitar accompaniment.  Returning to the dulcimer for “Lord Randall”, Carthy delivers a masterful vocal performance, echoed further on the sprawling “Famous Flower of Serving Men”, one of Carthy’s finest moments.  Concluding this album, which now celebrates its fiftieth year, former band mate Maddy Prior joins Carthy for a rousing multi-tracked performance of “Betsy Bell and Mary Gray”.     

128 | 30 DECEMBER 2022

Flick the Dust Off | Love | Forever Changes | Elektra EKS 74013 | 1967

It’s hard to believe nowadays that Love’s third album Forever Changes failed to achieve any significant success upon its initial release back in 1967, at the height of the so called Summer of Love.  Co-produced by Bruce Botnick along with the band’s enigmatic leader Arthur Lee, who apparently replaced Neil Young, initially pencilled in as the original producer, the album is now considered one of the greatest albums of all time.  Though I was aware of the band in the early 1970s, I didn’t get around to taking it all in until much later.  It’s a strange little album, with equally strange song titles such as “maybe the People Would Be the Times or Between Clark and Hilldale”, “Andmoreaghain” and “Bummer in the Summer”, not to mention the bewildering lyrics, such as the opening line to “Live and Let Live”, ‘Oh, the snot has caked against my pants’.

Singled Out | Simon Dupree and the Big Sound | Kites | Parlophone R5646 | 1967

Well before the three Shulman brothers formed the successful progressive rock band Gentle Giant in 1970, they had a brief stint together in a British psychedelic pop band under the presumably groovy name of Simon Dupree and the Big Sound.  The band released one studio album Without Reservations and a couple of compilations, with ten singles, the most successful being this one, which reached number nine in the British charts back in 1967.   Recorded at Abbey Road Studios, the song includes a spoken passage in Chinese, performed by the actress Jacqui Chan, not to be confused with the martial arts actor.

Fifty Years Ago | Incredible String Band | Earthspan | Island ILPS 9211 | December 1972

I have to confess, the Incredible Sting Band took a strange turn in their career when they introduced Malcolm Le Maistre as a bone fide member of the band, an unrequired third voice in my humble.  The band already had two of the best singers in the world in Robin Williamson and Mike Heron and Le Maistre, for my money, just got in the way of a good thing.  Introducing a theatrical side to the band, Le Maistre joined the band proper on the band’s previous album Liquid Acrobat as Regards the Air, and it looked like he was now in for the long haul.  Having said this, Earthspan opens with one of Le Maistre’s own songs “My Father Was a Lighthouse Keeper”, which is a decent opener.   Curiously, the high theatrics introduced to the band provided one or two interesting moments, not least the sprawling “Sunday Song”, which features some fine vocal sparring between Heron and the outgoing Licorice McKechnie.


129 | 6 JANUARY 2023

Flick the Dust Off | Arlo Guthrie | Running Down the Road | Reprise RSLP6346 | 1969

I first became aware of Arlo Guthrie when Alice’s Restaurant played at our local Arts Centre in Doncaster, renamed The Civic Theatre shortly afterwards, and now demolished.   The film shared a double bill with Richard Lester’s post apocalyptic black comedy The Bed Sitting Room.   I was about 14.   All my heroes seemed to be hippies at the time, so both of these films were right up my street.  I was so young in fact, that I was completely oblivious to the wooden performances and the implausible plot, not to mention the wildly inaccurate depiction of Arlo’s dad Woody, dying in a New York hospital bed, looking as calm and contented as someone with a mild cold; not the violently shaking Huntingdon’s sufferer in reality.  I then saw Woodstock and sank in my seat as Arlo embarrassed himself into the history books.  This LP was from the same year (1969) and features the original version of “Coming Into Los Angeles”, a song featured in the Woodstock film.  The album also features some fine session musicians, including Clarence White, Ry Cooder, James Burton and Gene Parsons.

Singled Out | The Nice | America | Immediate IM068 | 1968

Returning once again to memories of the Progressive Rock Night, which was held every Monday evening at the Top Rank night club and rock venue in Doncaster throughout the early 1970s, I distinctly recall a handful of regular tracks being played every week without fail.  One of the records that the DJ always played was this version of Leonard Bernstein’s “America” by The Nice, PP Arnold’s former backing band.  The six and a half minute keyboard frenzy, courtesy of Keith Emerson, included wild theatricals including the ceremonious burning of the stars and stripes, which got them banned from playing the Royal Albert Hall ever again.  Emerson described the record as being the first ever instrumental protest song, which comes complete with a spoken section at the end, where PP Arnold’s three-year-old son speaks the famous line ‘America is pregnant with promise and anticipation, but is murdered by the hand of the inevitable.’  The last word enunciated in the only way a three year-old can.  All pretty controversial stuff at the time, certainly in light of the assassinations of John F Kennedy, Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr.  Still, the track was played every Monday night to the spaced out kids on Silver Street in Doncaster.

Fifty Years Ago | The Beach Boys | Holland | Reprise Records MS 2118 | January 1973

By the time this album arrived, the Beach Boys had put some mileage behind them, both in terms of the road and the surf.  Named after the country the LP was recorded, their nineteenth album Holland includes one or two memorable songs, certainly “Sail on Sailor”, later a single release, written Van Dyke Parks and Brian Wilson with Ray Kennedy, Tandyn Almer, and Jack Rieley, though Wilson would later pretty much disown the song.  Nonetheless, the song is perhaps the only viable opener, many of the other songs being rather too eccentric.  “Steamboat” plods on before side one concludes with what is essentially a suite of songs celebrating the band’s home state of California.  Mike Love’s contribution to the California Saga, “Big Sur” is largely forgettable, though “The Beaks of Eagles” includes some of the old Beach Boys magic, though much of it is delivered in the spoken word.  Side two, brings to the fore the voice of Carl Wilson on “Trader” and possibly the album’s best song “Leaving This Town”, co-written by a future Rutle, Ricky Fataar, concluding with Brian Wilson’s only other composition, “Funky Pretty”, with lyrics by Mike Love.  Far from the Beach Boys finest moment, Holland has a place in the summer canon, perhaps the band’s last hurrah, though we should perhaps not mention the awful fairy tale EP that comes with it.

130 | 13 JANUARY 2023

Flick the Dust Off | Clive Gregson and Christine Collister | Home and Away | Cooking Vinyl Cook003 | 1987

After the break-up of Any Trouble in 1984, Clive Gregson went solo first of all and then joined Richard Thompson’s touring band, where he would meet up with vocalist Christine Collister.  It must have been around 1986 when Richard Thompson suggested to his band mates that they should go out on the road as a duo rather than sitting around twiddling their thumbs.   Those who caught any of the duo’s early shows during this period would be astonished by Christine Collister’s raw and powerful voice, but also with Clive Gregson’s assured guitar playing and importantly, his songs.  Home and Away, captures some of these performances, initially a cassette and later released on vinyl.  Some of the album was recorded live, with other tracks recorded at home, hence the album’s title.  Notable songs on the album are “It’s All Just Talk”, “Northern Soul” and “Home is Where the Heart Is”, with one or two memorable covers, Merle Haggard’s “Mama Tried” for instance as well as the old Motown classic “I Heard it Through the Grapevine”, together with Keith Hancock’s “Chase the Dragon”.  Sadly, the duo’s personal relationship went the same way as Richard and Linda’s, yet individually, they’ve both since enjoyed some success as solo artists.

Singled Out | Medicine Head | (And the) Pictures in the Sky |  Dandelion DAN7003 | 1971

Strangely reminiscent of T Rex, Medicine Head was not only a duo that was initially championed by DJ John Peel in the early 1970s, but also, certainly in the case of this single, sounded like them too.  The ‘oo’s’ sit right there alongside Bolan’s ‘na’s’ on the contemporaneous “Hot Love”.  Medicine Head, which was made up of John Fiddler and Peter Hope-Evans, never won over the same sort of attention as T Rex, possibly due to the fact that Bolan looked like an elfin God, whereas John Fiddler looked like an OU lecturer in dynamical systems and differential equations.  Though the Keith Relf-produced single garnered some attention back in 1971, reaching number 22 in the UK charts, it was the later “One and One is One” that reached number 3 in 1973, proving that the duo were beginning to do better in the charts, if not in their maths.

Fifty Years Ago | Rick Wakeman | Six Wives of Henry VIII | A&M AMLH64361 | January 1973

After memorable stints with the Progressive Rock band Yes and the Progressive Folk band The Strawbs, as well as playing a key role in the world of session work, memorably with Cat Stevens – that piano on “Morning Has Broken” and David Bowie – that memorable piano on “Oh You Pretty Things”, Rick Wakeman was by this time ready to embark on a solo career. This unfortunately coincided with the changing world of Rock n Roll, which immediately placed the keyboard wizard at the epicentre of ridicule.  He was seen as the father of all that was supposed to be wrong with rock music at the time, not least for those who were in desperate need for three chords and the truth, and under three minutes at that.   The lavish and bizarre theatrical productions, involving coned hats, luvvy narrations and ice skates, didn’t help his case.  The Six Wives of Henry VIII is literally made up of six instrumental compositions, each inspired by Harry’s wives, some of which would meet stickier ends than Rick’s finger nails.  There’s one or two moments where Wakeman’s Classical training comes in handy, notably on “Catherine Howard” and certainly parts of “Anne Boleyn”, but much of it really hasn’t stood the test of time.    

131 | 20 JANUARY 2023

Flick the Dust off | The Amazing Blondel | Evensong | Island ILSP9136 | 1970

And then there were three.  Having already worked their way through three bands during the late 1960s, John Gladwin and Terry Wincott had evolved into a duo for the first Amazing Blondel album, recorded in 1970 and released on the Bell record label.  Two major developments followed the release of The Amazing Blondel and a Few Faces, firstly, fellow Scunthorpe musician Eddie Baird joined the band and secondly, they signed to Chris Blackwell’s Island label, a risk at the time, when their label mates included Free, King Crimson, Traffic and Cat Stevens to name but a few.  The cover shot of the three musicians posing in the cloisters of Lincoln Cathedral was almost evidence of the music to be heard, even before the record reached the turntable, as was some of the song titles, “Old Moot Hall”, “St Crispin’s Day”, “The Ploughman” and “Lady Marion’s Galliard”.  The first few notes of the opening song “Pavan” more or less sealed the deal; you were either ‘into’ it or not.  Evensong is made up of songs written by John Gladwin, except for a short instrumental by Eddie Baird, which closes the first side.  Much of the album features instrumentation from an entirely different era, from the lute and the cittern to the variety of recorders and the crumhorn, an essential combination for the band’s completely out of time and out of step music.

Singled Out | Amazing Blondel | I’ll Go the Way I Came | DJM DJS661 | 1976

Perhaps included in the Singled Out series, simply due to the fact that the single is so far removed from the rest of the Amazing Blondel canon.  If you’ve devoured the beauty of the band’s previous albums from A Few Faces, through Evensong, Fantasia Lindum and England, not to mention the equally revered Blondel or perhaps better known as the Purple Album, “I’ll Go the Way I Came” might come as something of a surprise.  Released on the DJM label, possibly most famous for Elton John’s golden years, certainly from Empty Sky through to Goodbye Yellow Brick Road and one or two albums beyond, it’s probably not coincidental that this particular song sounds pretty much like Elton, in the vein of “Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting” or “Love Lies Bleeding”, with Dave Skinner’s heavy handed piano and frantic horns helping the groove along.  The flip side is Terry Wincott’s rather more laid back “Liberty Belle”, both songs taken from the band’s eighth album Bad Dreams, an odd final album before the band called it a day in 1976.   

Fifty Years Ago | Blondel | Blondel | Island ILSP9257 | January 1973

And then there were two, again.  After the departure of founder member John Gladwin, the two remaining musicians Eddie Baird and Terry Wincott found themselves in a tricky position.  Not only had their lead voice, a voice that dominated much of the band’s material thus far, but they had also lost their main song writer, the man behind such memorable songs as “Spring Season”, “Dolor Dulcis (Sweet Sorrow)”, “Seascape” and the magnificent “Celestial Light”.  Then there was the contractual problem of owing Island another album.  All eyes turned to Eddie Baird, who took on the role of song writer for the band’s final Island album Blondel.  Dropping the adjective and separating it by one letter in the alphabet, thus taking up residence in the B section of the record shop browsers, Blondel or the Purple Album, shows a surprising departure from the previous albums, with one or two highly melodic moments, which possibly came as more of a surprise to Eddie Baird than the rest of us.  The album appears to be a masterclass of song writing created by someone who didn’t know he had it in him.  There’s little doubt that the first side’s suite of songs, “The Leaving of the Country Lover”, Young Man’s Fancy” and “Easy Come, Easy Go”, each song linked by orchestral arrangements courtesy of Adrian Hopkins, demonstrates an affinity with the craft of song making.  Like England and Fantasia Lindum before it, the first sides of which are made up of cleverly crafted suites, while the second side is a collection of complete separate songs, Blondel follows suit, with a further five songs, from the easily accessible “Sailing”, not to be confused with the Sutherland Brothers/Rod Stewart song, through to the melancholic “Depression”, which brings the album to an end.  The album also features contributions from Free’s Paul Rodgers and Simon Kirke, together with Traffic’s Steve Winwood and singers Sue and Sunny, known for their later hit “Doctor’s Orders”.

132 | 27 JANUARY 2023

Flick the Dust Off | Robin and Barry Dransfield | Popular to Contrary Belief | Free Reed FRR018 | 1977

Oh the amount of times I’ve played tracks from this album on my radio show, only for listeners to say later, you got that the wrong way around.  Damn those North Yorkshire pranksters.  Sadly, the once popular Harrogate siblings Robin and Barry Dransfield are rarely mentioned in folk circles these days, though they left a huge impression on me when I first heard their debut LP Rout of the Blues, a good few years ago.  The two brothers were Ashley Hutchings first choice of musicians invited to join him on his new Steeleye Span venture but turned down the offer.  Instead, the brothers continued to perform as a duo throughout the early 1970s, gaining a reputation as folk brats among the established folk community, at one point forming a folk rock outfit simply called Dransfield and made their concept album Fiddler’s Dream shortly afterwards, which was received with mixed reviews and with little help from the record company in terms of marketing.  Photographed outside a pub, raising their glasses, the brothers looked set for a come back in 1977 when they released Popular to Contrary Belief for the Derby-based Free Reed Records, performing the sort of traditional songs they first found fame with seven years earlier.  There’s little difference between the opening song on their debut album seven years earlier, and “The Talcahuano Girls” and fans of the duo would have been pleased to hear the boys return to this sort of music after the more experimental Fiddler’s Dream the year before.  “Bogie’s Bonnie Belle”, “The Holmfirth Anthem”, “Peggy Gordon” and “The Conscript’s Farewell” are among the very best performances by these much missed brothers.

Singled Out | The Move | Fire Brigade | Regal Zonophone RZ 3005 | 1968

Written by Roy Wood and performed by The Move, “Fire Brigade” is one of those memorable pop songs from the late Sixties.  It was the band’s fourth single release and is loaded with twangy Duane Eddy styled guitar licks together with a great chorus, just the thing to guarantee chart success, but also it adheres to the Summer of Love sensibility, particularly in the middle eight, where there are rainbows in her hair, pretty standard fare for the previous year.  ‘Cast your mind back ten years to the girl who’s next to me in school, if I put my hand upon her leg, she’s hit me with a rule’ was perfectly true of the era, only in my case with one Lorraine Bailey, it was a sharpened pencil, for which fifty-odd years on, I still have a mark.  It may also be worth noting that the guitar lick inspired the Sex Pistols “God Save the Queen”.

Fifty Years Ago | Little Feat | Dixie Chicken | Warner Bros K46200 | January 1973

Like many UK fans of Little Feat, my introduction to the band was via the Old Grey Whistle Test, where they performed one of the tracks from this album, “Fat Man in the Bathtub”, together with “Rock and Roll Doctor from the band’s next album Feats Don’t Fail Me Now.   Failing to catch the band on that tour is one of life’s little regrets, though seeing them on the box in our family living room on that occasion was almost as good.  I still sit in wonder at the British audience reaction to Little Feat going on as a warm up for the Doobie Brothers.  The Dixie Chicken Little Feat was still very much led by Lowell George and therefore endowed with one of the finest and most soulful voices of the 1970s, if not the entire history of rock and roll, together with one of the hottest slide players around.  This very much comes across throughout Dixie Chicken (or are we expected to just call it ‘Chicken’ these days?)  Once again the sleeve artwork was produced by Neon Park, who was responsible for the band’s previous album Sailing Shoes. This third album also saw the departure of original bassist Roy Estrada, who was replaced by Kenny Gradney as well as the addition of Paul Barrere, who would become a key player in the band for the years to come.  The album also featured contributions by both Bonnie Bramlett and Linda Ronstadt as well as Malcolm Cecil, the synth pioneer responsible for Tonto’s Expanding Head Band and his work on some of Stevie Wonder’s finest albums.

133 | 3 FEBRUARY 2023

Flick the Dust Off | Television | Marquee Moon | Elektra K52046 | 1977

Like much of the new music I first heard in the 1970s, Television’s Marquee Moon came to be via John Peel’s late night radio show on BBC Radio One.  Robert Mapplethorpe’s memorable cover photo suggests that the band might have developed from a New York punk background, yet their sound focuses on rock and jazz-inflected guitar interplay rather than the frantic power chords related to the standard issue punk bands of the day.  Television’s debut album, which was produced by Andy Johns and Tom Verlaine in 1976 and released the following year, still stands up to scrutiny almost fifty years on.  If the songs on the LP feel well-rehearsed, certainly “Venus”, “Torn Curtain” and the sprawling title tack, then it’s because they were well-rehearsed and therefore most of the tracks appear as first takes.  Joining the late Tom Verlaine are Billy Ficca on drums, Richard Lloyd on guitar and Fred Smith on bass.  Marquee Moon remains a period classic.

Singled Out | Electric Light Orchestra | 10538 Overture | Harvest  HAR 5053 | 1972

Attending one of the band’s early 1970s gigs at the Top Rank in Doncaster, well before their name was reduced to an acronym and before the spaceships arrived, I was there to witness what I considered to be the new Move.   In the previous decade, one of the bands that forced me to part with the little money I earned from my gruelling paper round was the Move, a band whose singles, however cheesy, would have me in a state of chronic servitude, feverishly adding each 45 to my singles box in date order, “Fire Brigade”, “Blackberry Way”, “Curly”, “Brontosaurus” etc., not to mention the later singles on the Harvest label, “Tonight” and “Chinatown” among them.  The later records began to mix straightforward rock and roll with classical instrumentation, certainly the prominence of the cello, yet the early incarnation of the Electric Light Orchestra took this one step further.  Although still sounding very much like the Move here, mainly due to the fact that Roy Wood was still in the band, the Electric Light Orchestra burst on the scene with this oddly titled single “10538 Overture”, apparently a song about a prisoner, which was also the opening track on the band’s debut album of the same year, the one with the giant light bulb on the cover.

Fifty Years Ago | Camel | Camel | MAPS6477 | February 1973

Anyone who remembers the Guilford-based band Camel in the early 1970s would also perhaps remember Andrew Latimer’s cringe-worthy guitar playing poses, a guitar player who looked for all intents and purposes like he was in a state of ecstasy when ever his fingers passed midway point on the fretboard of his Les Paul, right up to the dusty end.  Perhaps this is why Camel were so mercilessly ridiculed by the burgeoning Punk and New Wave movements that followed shortly afterwards, whose advocates preferred a guitar to be used for combat rather than love.  Initially delivering funky basslines and prog-ish keyboard flurries, ever changing tempos and  flights of fancy, not to mention their artsy LP sleeves, Camel fell right in with the Prog Rock ethos, a little late to the party perhaps, in view of the changing times, but very much there, to get their Whistle Test moment a couple of years later with their Snow Goose suite.   Strangely, the photo of the band on the back cover is weirdly reminiscent of the cover shot for the Oasis debut Definitely Maybe, only with flares. The sprawling twenty minute “Homage to the God of Light” added to the CD re-issue takes up the same about of groove space as “Supper’s Ready”, but nowhere near as interesting.

134 | 10 FEBRUARY 2023

Flick the Dust Off | Mary Margaret O’Hara | Miss America | Virgin V2559 | 1988

I first became aware of Mary Margaret O’Hara in the late 1980s when she appeared on a late night music show introduced by Andy Kershaw, which may or may not have been the Old Grey Whistle Test.  On the show the singer-songwriter and actress performed “Dear Darling” from the album Miss America, and her performance revealed a most unusual phenomenon, in that her body movement seemed to be totally at odds with the song, as if her body was actually twitching and jerking to an entirely different number.  Strangely, this was the very thing about the singer that captured my attention and the following day I went out and bought this LP.  Little did I know at the time that this would be O’Hara’s only album release, though she did go on to release a soundtrack album, a few EPs and make appearances on collaborations with others.  O’Hara is the sister of Catherine O’Hara, known to millions as Macauley Culkin’s mum in the Home Alone films.

Singled Out | The Roches | Big Nuthin’ | MCA 1396 | 1989

By the time the Roches had reached their sixth album Speak, I had pretty much left them behind, their debut album from ten years earlier being a particularly hard act to follow.  The siblings Maggie, Terre and Suzzy were now grownups, and their music had become synth reliant, like much of the music from the period.  Gone was Robert Fripp, whose earlier production was almost as important as the voices on the first record, yet those highly distinctive voices were still intact by the release of Speak and the accompanying single “Big Nuthin’”.  Playful as ever, the three sisters appear to have fun with this almost throw-away song, which is essentially about nuthin’ in particular. 

Fifty Years Ago | Fairport Convention | Rosie | Island ILPS 9208 | February 1973

Surprisingly, Rosie was the very first studio album by Fairport I bought after seeing the band at the Top Rank in Doncaster back in the early 1970s.  I’d already bought the band’s double compilation set the History of Fairport Convention upon its release in 1972, which concludes with a set of fiddle tunes, indicating that “The Hen’s March” would be included on their forthcoming album.  That album was Rosie, which I immediately bought upon its release the following year.  I was slightly disappointed that there weren’t more fiddle tunes included, though the title song, written by Dave Swarbrick, who was by now the lead voice in the band, became a firm favourite.   Old pals Sandy Denny and Richard Thompson contributed to the title song, as well as the future Mrs Thompson, under her maiden name Linda Peters.  The album also saw the band spreading their wings slightly, moving from a quintessential English folk rock band to something slightly more international, with Australian folk singer Trevor Lucas joining their ranks together with American guitarist Jerry Donahue, whose Telecaster twang would become the new sound of the band.  Rosie was also the first Fairport album without original member Simon Nicol, who had gone on to something else with his time, which these days would be unthinkable.  Produced by Lucas, with noted engineer John Wood present, Rosie is largely ignored by Fairporters, yet it has some fun moments, notably “Hungarian Rhapsody”, a kind of “Angel Delight II”, Swarbrick’s pretty “My Girl” and Swarbick’s nostalgic “Me with You”, featuring some of Ralph McTell’s trademark ragtime guitar accompaniment.

135 | 17 FEBRUARY 2023

Flick the Dust Off | Bert Jansch | It Don’t Bother Me | Transatlantic TRA132 | 1965

In In the late 1960s, it was considered cool to have a Bert Jansch record in your collection, especially one of the earlier Transatlantic records.  By the time of Bert’s death in 2011, it was still cool to own his records, and possibly even more so.  The Scots guitar player remained pretty much an enigma throughout his career, a quietly spoken, reserved and rather shy man, yet a musician whose influence was and still is far reaching.  Bert’s second LP was released in 1965, the same year in which his debut solo album was released.  Although his eponymous album was very much a solo affair, It Don’t Bother Me shows that he wasn’t alone, having been joined on a couple of tracks by John Renbourn, as well as being joined by a reclining Beverley Martyn on the cover.  Produced by Nathan Joseph and Bill Leader, the album demonstrates both the serious and the playful side of Jansch’s song writing, and to this day, recalls the heyday of the Soho acoustic music scene of the mid-1960s, with the echoes of Denmark Street lodged within its grooves.

Singled Out | Marianne Faithfull | As Tears Go By | Decca F11923 | 1964

Mick Jagger and Keith Richards were almost forced into a kitchen by their manager Andrew Loog Oldham to put their heads together (all three of them) and write what was essentially one of their first songs, which was then given to the seventeen year-old Marianne Faithfull to sing.  Changing the original title from “As Time Goes By” to “As Tears Goes By”after realising the title had already been used in the film Casablanca, the Jagger/Richards/Oldham song is said to be about depression, from the perspective of watching children play whilst in a state of melancholy.  Jagger and Richards who would go on to write dozens of classic songs, considered this early attempt to be nothing more than a ‘terrible piece of tripe’, almost completely writing it off as a dud.  However, the Rolling Stones did record their own version of the song for the album December’s Children (And Everybody’s) but didn’t perform the song as part of their live set until forty years later during their A Bigger Bang tour.  The song has since been covered by such artists as Nancy Sinatra, PP Arnold and Vanessa Paradis.

Fifty Years Ago | John Martyn | Solid Air | Island ILPS 9226 | February 1973

Eighteen months after stepping into the studio to record Bless the Weather, John Martyn’s critically acclaimed third solo album, released after his two previous collaborative albums with his then wife Beverley, the singer/guitarist was back in the studio to record the landmark Solid Air, its title track written for his fragile and soon to be departed friend Nick Drake.  Once again pretty much an acoustic album like its predecessor, this time aided and abetted by several Fairport friends and crucially Pentangle’s Danny Thompson, who Martyn would later successfully tour with.  The Echoplex tape delay effect comes out to play again, an effect initially explored on “Glistening Glyndebourne” from the previous album, but this time used more forcefully on “I’d Rather Be the Devil”, loosely based on the old Skip James number, “Devil Got My Woman”.   Solid Air is perhaps best known though for the tender song “May You Never”, one of Martyn’s most engaging songs, covered multiple times over the years, notably by Eric Clapton, Ralph McTell, Linda Lewis and Snow Patrol.

136 | 24 FEBRUARY 2023

Flick the Dust Off | Stella Chiweshe | Ambuya? | GlobeStyle ORB029 | 1987

Traditionally, it was only men who were encouraged to become mbira musicians, yet Zimbabwe’s Stella Chiweshe went against the grain to become a world known exponent of the instrument, which can be described as a small wooden board with staggered metal prongs attached that are plucked with the thumbs, an instrument that takes many shapes and forms, each creating a very distinctive sound. By the mid-1980s, African music had made a big splash on the world stage with artists such as Stella bursting onto the international conscience, though she actually took up this instrument a good twenty years earlier in Harare, taking lessons from her uncle.  She described the experience as being similar to when a close person dies, a burning in the chest, which was eased when her uncle invited her to play.  Ambuya? sees Stella team up with her band The Earthquake featuring Virginia Mkwesha on mbira and hosho, Leonard Ngwena on soprano marimba and Samson Mirazi on baritone marimba, with the guest rhythm section from 3 Mustaphas 3.

Singled Out | Procol Harum | Pandora’s Box | Chrysalis CHS 2073 | 1975

Although Procol Harum’s ninth album didn’t quite live up to the band’s nor the public’s expectations, having turned to the veteran songwriting team of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller to handle production, the standout opening song soon became the band’s biggest selling single since the re-issue of “A Whiter Shade of Pale” three years earlier.  With lyrics written by regular lyricist, Keith Reid, and music written by Gary Brooker, “Pandora’s Box” saw the band turn to Greek Mythology for inspiration and the single went on to spend the rest of the year appearing regularly on UK pop radio.  Once again Reid’s lyrics have a sense of intrigue and surrealism, though unlike “A Whiter Shade of Pale”, the references to Pegasus, Snow White and Cock Robin appear to ring some childhood bells.

Fifty Years Ago | Traffic | Shoot Out at the Fantasy Factory | Island ILPS9224 | 1973

By the time of Traffic’s sixth album release, Shoot Out at the Fantasy Factory, the rock press had begun to grow slightly weary, though the band continued to achieve chart success, this album earning a place in the top ten of the Billboard album chart.  Steve Winwood, Chris Wood and Jim Capaldi were all still very much in the band at the time, joined here by one or two key Muscle Shoals session men, including David Hood on bass, Roger Hawkins on drums, Barry Beckett on keyboards and Jimmy Johnson on guitar.  Like the band’s previous album, the sleeve resembles a cube, albeit a flatpack cube, the sleeve’s corners clipped to allow for the illusion.  With some heavy on the wah-wah pedal guitar licks on the opening title track, the album continued to compete with some of the contemporary rock albums of the day.  “Roll Right Stones” is a lengthy song, written by Capaldi and Winwood and focuses on Winwood’s soulful vocals.  If anything, Shoot Out at the Fantasy Factory remains a poor second to the much superior John Barleycorn Must Die and The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys, though the acoustic guitar-led “Evening Blue” is a fine Winwood performance, which would signal the sort of material the singer would later record on a string of solo albums that would look after him through the 1980s.  Perhaps, as the rock critic Robert Christgau alluded to at the time, the closing song “(Sometimes I Feel So) Uninspired” might be a ‘giveaway’ sign that the album lacked the sort of inspiration found in the band’s earlier albums.

137 | 3 MARCH 2023

Flick the Dust Off | The Doors | Strange Days | Elektra K42016 | 1967

The Doors was a band that pretty much passed me by when I was in my early teens, during the late stages of my school days, when Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple and Black Sabbath almost exclusively ruled the turntable.  The second studio album by the LA-based band, Strange Days, was recorded and released in 1967, hot on the heels of the band’s self-titled debut, recorded earlier the same year.  I was already familiar with the band’s “Light My Fire” in both it’s short and long versions, but it wasn’t enough to spark much interest, that is until I read Jerry Hopkins and Danny Sugarman’s biography of Jim Morrison, No One Here Gets Out Alive, which I read over ham sandwiches and coffee in a cafe along Copley Road, whilst working as a screen printer in Doncaster.  Some of the songs on Strange Days had been written before the release of the band’s debut record, including “Moonlight Drive”, one of Jim Morrison’s earliest songs by all accounts, yet failed to make it onto that initial release.  Strange Days is equally remembered for its cover artwork, the only Doors album not to feature the band, but instead a group of street performers, a strong man and a juggler amongst them, photographed in a Manhattan back street. The man playing the trumpet was apparently a random cab driver.  Not as good as its predecessor, but worth a listen nonetheless.

Singled Out | Them | Here Comes the Night | Decca F12094 | 1965

Separating the man from the music has become a necessity when it comes to Van Morrison.  Famously awkward when it comes to communicating with this remarkable Belfast-born artist, there can be no doubt as to the man’s tonsil inflections, something I’ve been listening to for many years now.  As the frontman with the Northern Irish band Them, Morrison’s voice effortlessly held everything together, as the band released a handful of important singles throughout the mid-1960s, including “Baby Please Don’t Go”, “Mystic Eyes”, “Gloria” and “Here Comes the Night”. Formed in 1964, Them became known on the international stage and made a splash in Los Angeles with a residency at the Whisky a Go Go.  It wouldn’t last long, as Morrison left in 1966 to pursue a fruitful solo career, releasing the ground-breaking Astral Weeks a couple of years later.  “Here Comes the Night” remains possibly Them’s finest moment.

Fifty Years Ago | Beck Bogert Appice | Beck Bogert Appice | Epic SEPC65455 | February 1973

Like Blind Faith, Derek and the Dominos, Thunderclap Newman and most notably the Sex Pistols before them, Beck, Bogert and Appice made just the one album, and like the others is possibly best remembered just for that.  In places the band, made up of Jeff Beck on guitar, Tim Bogert on bass and Carmine Appice on drums, both former members of Vanilla Fudge and Cactus, sound like a Cream tribute band, notably on “Lady” which has shades of “I Feel Free” written all over it.  The soulful “Sweet Sweet Surrender” has good intentions, whilst “Lose Myself With You” is possibly over-zealous as an arrangement, which teeters on the fence between genius and shambolic.  Perhaps the finest moment is the power trio’s cover of Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition”, which delivers on Beck’s funky guitar licks, who had worked on Wonder’s 1972 album Talking Book.  The album closes with a smooth reading of Curtis Mayfield’s “I’m So Proud”, but not quite as smooth as the Impressions original.

138 | 10 MARCH 2023

Flick the Dust Off | Man | Rhinos, Winos and Lunatics | United Aritsts UAG29631 | 1974

In the early 1970s it was impossible to escape the Welsh rock band Man, back then they seemed to be just part of the musical furniture. Their ninth LP Rhinos, Winos and Lunatics ended up in my collection after its initial release in 1974 and it soon found its way onto the turntable and stayed there pretty much for the duration of that year.  Original guitarist Deke Leonard was back in the fold after being sacked by the band during the mixing of their second album 2 Ozs of Plastic With a Hole in the Middle in 1969 and effectively brought a spark to the band’s new found creativity.  The sleeve was just another example of why the LP format was so important to us back then, a feast of things to look at, a cover shot of the band relaxing in a cluttered room full of objects, an inner sleeve rich in detail, featuring a full page scenario and a four-page insert with band bios, all of which was read before I even got to the bus stop.  “Kerosene” is perhaps the finest Steely Dan song not actually written or performed by Steely Dan.

Singled Out | Creedence Clearwater Revival | Down on the Corner | Liberty LBF 15283 | 1969

The album Willy and the Poor Boys came along when I was the biggest Creedence Clearwater Revival fan on our street back in the late 1960s.  My love of the band was echoed by a school pal, who also lived on our street, making that two biggest fans on the street, whose brother (another fan) had all the LPs.  These albums were therefore easily accessible, but only when big brother was out.  The younger contingent of the Barnstone Street CCR Appreciation Society had to make do with buying the band’s plethora of 45s, which we could just about afford with our respective paper round money.  We collected most of them during this time, notably “Bad Moon Rising”, “Lodi”, “Green River” and “Up Around the Bend”, with more besides.  “Down on the Corner”, written by John Fogerty, was released in 1969, the same year as the LP, which saw the band adopt a distinct skiffle style and a fictional moniker, a little like the Beatles’ Sgt Pepper band.  Willy and the Poor Boys appeared on the album sleeve as street buskers playing skiffle instruments, which included the washboard and tea chest bass.

Fifty Years Ago | King Crimson | Larks Tongues in Aspic | Island ILPS 19230 | March 1973

There’s something relatively soothing about the opening few moments of this album, perhaps a taste of the international music we would become more familiar with in the decades to come.  “Lark’s Tongues in Aspic Part I” allows percussionist Jamie Muir free reign to experiment for a good three minutes before the choppy notes of David Cross’s violin comes in, moving aside for something spectacular, courtesy of Robert Fripp, some of the most memorably and sneering guitar riffs ever laid down on a Crimson LP.  King Crimson therefore thrilled us once again, in precisely the same manner as they did a few years earlier with “20th Century Schizoid Man”, the opening song on their self-titled debut back in 1968.  Five years on, a few line-up changes and the band released this, their fifth album, effectively returning to form after one or two weaker albums, with more perplexing rhythms and curious songs.  ‘Doo da de dow dow, da di de dow, d-dow, doo doo doo’ might not be the best sing-along opening line, but after a couple of runs through “Easy Money” can be equally as infectious as ‘Da Doo Ron Ron’ or for that matter ‘Be-Bop-a-Lula’, if you allow yourself to go with the flow.  John Wetton was now a bona fide member of the band, along with Muir and Cross, together with ex-Yes drummer Bill Bruford, who alongside Muir, created some fine and inventive percussive moments.  The Mellotron is also still very much there, a Prog Rock essential, notable here on the sprawling “Exiles”. Lark’s Tongues probably prepared our ears for what was to follow, possibly the band’s finest moment, the following year’s extraordinary Red

139 | 17 MARCH 2023

Flick the Dust Off | Various Artists | The Devil’s Music | Red Lightnin RL0033 | 1985

The Devil’s Music: A History of the Blues , based on Giles Oakley’s book of the same name, was first broadcast on BBC TV in 1979 and was instrumental in bringing old rural blues music to the attention of many blues enthusiasts who didn’t quite know it yet.  Introduced by Alexis Korner, the TV documentary series became essential viewing if only for a short period of time.  Each of the recordings on the accompanying double LP were recorded slightly earlier for the programme in 1976, being a clear indication that these old timers were still not quite past their sell by date.  Particular highlights included Sam Chatmon’s “Stop and Listen”, Bukka White’s “Aberdeen Mississippi Blues” and Houston Stackhouse’s “Cool Drink of Water”, not to mention the delightful Laura Dukes ukulele accompanied “Crawdad”.

Singled Out | Al Green | Let’s Stay Together | London HLU 10348 | 1971

With most of the great music being recorded in 1971, especially in terms of what we now think of as classic albums, the singles charts could also provide one or two memorable moments, encompassing a wide range of styles and genres.  The soulful sound of Al Green seemed to be just the thing for our ears, accustomed to wall to wall rock music, which filled the radio airwaves as well as the concert halls up and down the country at the time.  “Let’s Stay Together”, co-written by producer Willie Mitchell and Al Jackson, provided Green with his biggest hit to date and a song that continues to be used in both film and television and also holding the distinction of being one of the few songs Barack Obama has performed himself in public.  This is Al Green at the top of his game.

Fifty Years Ago | Led Zeppelin | Houses of the Holy | Atlantic K50014 | March 1973

When I sat in the audience at the Sheffield City Hall in January 1973, no doubt wailing ‘Wally’ for no apparent good reason, Houses of the Holy wasn’t even out, yet one or two songs from the band’s fifth album were performed that night.  The band’s then current fourth album was still enjoying an extended residency on our respective turntables as we tried to work out the meaning of the so called ‘runes’ symbols.  We were still very much into that album to be worrying ourselves about the next one.  Once again, the band chose to leave their name off the new record sleeve to add to the growing mystery surrounding the band and its excesses.  The striking cover was designed by top sleeve designers Hipgnosis, a collage of Aubrey Powell’s photographs of eleven distinctly fair haired children climbing Giant’s Causway in Northern Ireland, though only two children were actually involved in the shoot.  The album’s most outstanding song on the album is possibly “No Quarter”, originally composed by John Paul Jones, which became a live favourite.  Other notable tracks include “The Song Remains the Same”, “Over the Hills and Far Away” and “Dancing Days”.

140 | 24 MARCH 2023

Flick the Dust Off | Joni Mitchell | Clouds | Reprise K44070 | 1969

Joni Mitchell’s second album release Clouds, was eagerly anticipated at the time, her reputation having gone ahead of her with no less than two of the songs already known through interpretations by both Judy Collins and Fairport Convention prior to the album’s release in 1969.  Joni had already uprooted from her native Canada to record her debut album in New York with David Crosby in 1967 and by this time had moved once again to California, recording Clouds in Hollywood with the help of Stephen Stills.  Once again illustrated by her own sleeve artwork, Clouds features an impressionistic self-portrait, an image of the artist most remembered.  “Tin Angel” almost continues where the songs on Song to the Seagull finished off, with a similar bleakness.  “Chelsea Morning” brings in the mountain dulcimer, a feature of the next few albums, culminating in Joni’s 1970 masterpiece Blue.   The multi-tracked vocal on “Song to Aging Children” takes Joni to her most ethereal place, a superb performance, the song borrowed for the snowy cemetery scene in Arthur Penn’s film Alice’s Restaurant, released in the same year, performed in the film by Tigger Outlaw, possibly due to copyright complications.  Perhaps the album’s key track is the closer “Both Sides Now”, from where the title is derived, a song that is peerless in its beauty, and one, along with a much later version, that almost bookends Joni’s rich and varied career as the preeminent songwriter.

Singled Out | Bob Marley and the Wailers | Jamming | Island WIP6410 | 1977

In 1977 Bob Marley and the Wailers had pretty much established themselves as the leading reggae band of the day, releasing their ninth album Exodus to both critical and commercial success.  Although Reggae balanced on the fringe of my musical palette at the time, the “Jamming” single, which could be heard all over the radio, didn’t actually impress me until I heard it in a night club that same year.  Sitting bored in the corner, I just happened to be seated in a place that could be described as the best vantage point to hear the full effect of the club’s rather excellent sound system and as soon as the single was played, I became entranced by the percussive embellishments, which seemed to circulate around me.  I went out and bought the single the very next day.

Fifty Years Ago | For Your Pleasure | Island ILPS9232 | March 1973

I’m pretty sure For Your Pleasure is the only rock album to feature the voice of Judi Dench, delivering a perfectly audible few words at the end of the title track, in a sort of “Revolution #9” moment.   For Your Pleasure was recorded in February 1973 and released a month later, making it now fifty years old.  Roxy Music pretty much took everyone by surprise in the summer of 1972, when they literally burst on the scene, swiftly followed by an appearance on the Old Grey Whistle Test, almost immediately being written off by Bob Harris, with his now famous ‘style over substance’ remark.  Bob was in a minority at the time as the band’s reputation grew, with a little help from their initial single “Virginia Plain”, as well as the band’s debut album release.  A few months later, their second album confirmed their place on the scene, with “Do the Strand” becoming an almost overnight anthem for the band.  Bob was right of course, in fact whenever I think of Roxy Music, it’s always the clothes, the hairdos, the platform shows and the LP sleeves that spring to mind first, at least before thoughts turn to let’s say “The Bogus Man” or “Grey Lagoons”.   “In Every Dream Home a Heartache” remains a little dodgy, certainly in these times.  The album does contain some fine Eno moments before he picked up his VCS3 and made for the exit.

141 | 31 MARCH 2023

Flick the Dust Off | Tim Buckley | Sinfronia | Discreet 49201 | 1973

I first became aware of Tim Buckley via the Elektra sampler LP Begin Here, which I bought specifically for the Incredible String Band song “Mercy” I Cry “City”, or possibly even the track by Love, but certainly not the David Peel and the Lower East Side opener “Alphabet Song”.  Unless you were really up on your tortured white soul singers of the day, Buckley may have passed you by in ’69, yet an appearance on The Monkees TV show might have given you an early glimpse of the 12-string player doing a rather nice “Song to the Siren”, while This Mortal Coil’s Liz Frazer was still in nursery.  In May 1974, Buckley appeared on the Old Grey Whistle Test and performed the opening song on this album, a fine reading of Fred Neil’s “Dolphins”, which is possibly still the go-to song on the album, released a few months earlier.  Buckley also covered Tom Waits’ “Martha”, with some sumptuous strings, a song that first appeared on Waits’ debut Closing Time, releases earlier in the same year.  Sadly, Buckley had only one more album in him before he died under tragic circumstances in the summer of 1975.  If Buckley remained pretty much an unknown figure in the UK over the next few years, a new generation discovered the singer through the success of his estranged son Jeff Buckley, whose life also ended tragically young.

Singled Out | Roy Wood | Dear Elaine | Harvest HAR5074 | 1972

Roy Wood wrote this song whilst still a member of The Move, though the song was first released under his own name on his solo LP Boulders.  Released as a single on the Harvest label in the same year, the song was treated to a classical feel, featuring plenty of strings and horns, all instruments, and voices performed by Wood himself.  Similar in feel to the work already explored in the Electric Light Orchestra, a band Wood formed with his Move buddies Jeff Lynne and Bev Bevan, “Dear Elaine” is also very much a part of the quintessential English pastoral singer songwriter genre of the late 1960s and early 1970s, in a similar vein as Clifford T Ward, Peter Skellern, Colin Blunstone and perhaps even Syd Barrett.  Musically adventurous, the song features some interesting multi-tracked choral vocals, which gives the song an almost whimsical feel.  Despite this, it’s Wood’s lead vocal that relates immediately to the best moments of The Move a few years earlier. 

Fifty Years Ago | Pink Floyd | Dark Side of the Moon | Harvest SHVL 804 | March 1973

It was always assumed that Meddle would be a tough act to follow, certainly in view of the fact that its two predecessors had been so disappointing, and Obscured by Clouds proved the fans right, a hard act to follow indeed.   In 1973 however, Meddle may still have been the high point in this band’s ever-changing legacy, until Dark Side of the Moon hit the record shops.  Becoming a sort of go to album for testing out your new hi fi system or at least your new set of headphones, it’s strange that my first copy was immediately placed on a cheap substandard Fidelity Hi Fi system, yet I was still knocked out by the sound.  Posters and stickers of weird pyramids and colour prisms bewildered us as did the themes included within the lyrics.  What’s all this spoken dialogue about, and is it Tom Conti’s voice?  Sounds like him.  I was 16 when I first dropped the needle down on “Speak to Me” and obviously sniggered at the opening line.  Did he just say what I thought he said?  Times were different, Punk hadn’t yet happened and Pink Floyd was still the best band in the world, despite their dodgy albums between Saucerful of Secrets and Meddle.  “Alan’s Psychedelic Breakfast”, really?  “The Grand Vizier’s Garden Party”, eh?  Dark Side of the Moon includes some rich musical passages for sure and one of the band’s most beautiful moments, the stunning “Great Gig in the Sky”, featuring Clare Torry’s remarkable scat vocal, for which I believe she earned thirty quid!

142 | 7 APRIL 2023

Flick the Dust off | Cream | Disraeli Gears | Reaction 593003 | 1966

I first heard “Sunshine of Your Love” performed by a local covers band in the late 1960s, The Androolays, who performed the song at an end of term party at my high school.  The iconic ten-note descending riff that opens the song immediately embedded itself in my head, the original earworm, that stayed there until I eventually discovered who was responsible for it.  Another local band whose drummer I was pally with, also played the song, which I often heard at close quarters, squatted next to the band’s guitarist during their many Sunday afternoon rehearsals.  I eventually went out and bought the brightly coloured psychedelic rock album from Foxes Records in Doncaster and discovered other notable tracks such as “Strange Brew”, “Tales of Brave Ulysses” and the abbreviated “SWLABR”, otherwise She Walks Like a Bearded Rainbow.  Heady days indeed.

Singled Out | Ashton Gardner and Dyke | The Resurrection Shuffle | Capitol CL15665 | 1970

Of all the so-called ‘dance instruction’ singles (“The Twist”, “The Locomotion” etc.) I always quite liked “Resurrection Shuffle”, though I don’t remember ever going through the moves.  I wouldn’t know how to make my backbone slip, though at a push I could possibly manage putting my hand on my hips, sticking out my tongue with my hand in the air, not to mention making a V-sign, like I just don’t care.  Keyboard player Tony Ashton, bassist Kim Gardner and drummer Roy Dyke joined forces in 1968 having played in various bands between them in both the north and south of England, notably Blackpool, Liverpool and London.   Known for its brass riff courtesy of Lyle Jenkins on sax and Dave Caswell on trumpet, also known for their work with the band Galliard, “Resurrection Shuffle”  reached number 3 in the UK singles charts and is known now as a one hit wonder.  Ashton, Garner and Dyke also played backup to Jonathan Kelly on his much sought after self-titled debut LP of 1970.  

Fifty Years Ago | The Wailers | Catch a Fire | Island ILPS 9241 | April 1973

It’s hard to describe the moment I first caught sight of The Wailers with Bob Marley on the Old Grey Whistle Test back in the early 1970s.  One or two questions immediately arose, mainly concerning the musicians’ hairstyles but also the band’s highly distinctive sound.  Reggae had been around for a good while and I already had a bunch of singles on the Trojan record label by such bands as The Pioneers, Greyhound and Desmond Dekker and the Aces, as well as one or two on the Trojan imprint Techniques Records, such as Dave and Ansil Collins and on Harry J Records, Bob and Marcia amongst others.  The Wailers were on Island though, one of my favourite labels at the time, known for such bands as Free, Fairport Convention and Traffic.  The penny soon dropped that reggae was being taken seriously and not just a novelty it had been in the past with such hits as “My Boy Lollipop” and “Double Barrel”.   Though “Concrete Jungle”, “Stir it Up” and “No More Trouble” are stand out tracks, Catch a Fire is perhaps best known for its clever cover design by Rod Dyer and Bob Weiner, which resembles a zippo lighter, complete with fully functioning hinged lid, all of which are now regarded as highly collectable.

143 | 14 APRIL 2023

Flick the Dust Off | Jethro Tull | Aqualung | Chrysalis CHR1044 | 1971

The iconic six note guitar riff that opens Jethro Tull’s fourth album Aqualung managed to stay with me throughout my last year at high school, a riff that whirled around my head between Science and History classes, where I would no doubt have been learning all about the actual underwater breathing apparatus and the agronomist and inventor responsible for the seed drill.  We dressed in a similar fashion to the cover character, or at least me and Graham Firth did, in second hand overcoats that had seen better days. Burton Silverman’s three watercolours evoke a mixture of religious hysteria and homelessness, featuring the band in the centre of the gatefold sleeve and Ian Anderson on both front and back (presumably), all playing their parts so convincingly.   Having the word ‘snot’ in the first verse of the title song added to the interest, especially to a fourteen-year-old struggling with his algebra.  Jethro Tull, the band, not seed drill bloke, would appear on the cover of all the major rock papers of the day, a colour one for Disc and Music Echo, black and white for the others, each of the heavily hirsute heads obscured by more hair than that of a Yeti convention.  Aqualung had the feel of a concept album, with its references to religion, though the band always claimed otherwise.  The mixture of gentle acoustic songs, “Wond’ring Aloud”, “Cheap Day Return” and “Slipstream”, and the more rock-based arrangements, “Aqualung”, “Cross Eyed Mary” and the superb “Locomotive Breath” helped to create a broad appeal.  Aqualung was the last album to feature original drummer Clive Bunker, who followed bassist Glenn Cornick out of the door upon the conclusion of making this album.  The album is still considered to be one of the band’s most memorable.

Singled Out | Bob Dylan | Positively 4th Street | CBS 201824 | 1965

“Positively 4th Street” is one of Bob Dylan’s best-known songs to have not appeared on any of Dylan’s major studio albums during the early part of his career, finding a place later as the opening song to side three of his More Greatest Hits compilation. Recorded in New York City in the summer of 1965, the single popped up between the release of Dylan’s two strongest albums of the period, Highway 61 Revisited and Blonde on Blonde, the follow-up in fact to the remarkable “Like a Rolling Stone”, which may be Dylan’s greatest single achievement. The musicians who featured on the recording session includes Bobby Gregg on drums, Russ Savakus on bass, Frank Owens on piano, Al Kooper on organ and Mike Bloomfield on guitar. Song writing of this calibre was a daring departure for Dylan and opens with a memorable confrontational line, ‘You’ve got a lotta nerve to say you are my friend’, something that appealed to the fledgeling song writer Joni Mitchell, who cites the song as a major influence on her own work, which would follow shortly afterwards.

Fifty Years Ago | Humble Pie | Eat It | A&M SP3701 | April 1973

In 1971, a pal of mine played me Humble Pie’s live double album set Performance Rockin’ the Fillmore, which was the best live album I’d heard so far.  The four individuals involved, knew instinctively how to bring excitement to a show and gave two memorable performances during two nights at the Fillmore East in New York City in 1971. Seven songs over four sides, created by a bog-standard rock band line-up, with just two guitars, a bass and drums, together with a couple of highly distinctive voices, courtesy of Steve Marriott and Peter Frampton, both former faces, that is one of the Small Faces and the Face of ‘68 respectively. By the time of Eat It’s release, the band’s sixth studio album, again a double set, the band was still a four-piece, with Dave ‘Clem’ Clemson having replaced Frampton who had gone off to embark on a phenomenally successful solo career. With the help of a trio of soulful backing singers, Venetta Fields, Clydie King and Billie Barnum, who would become known as The Blackberries, the band as now ablew to explore more nuances in their music, especially on the album’s stand out track, a cover of Ike and Tina’s “Black Coffee”. The album is also remembered for its four way split, with each side providing a different feel, the first side concentrating on Marriott’s rock and roll songs, side two a bunch of classic R&B covers, side three a collection of four acoustic-based songs and the last side recorded live in Glasgow.  Plenty of variety to get your teeth into, even fifty years on.

144 | 21 APRIL 2023

Flick the Dust Off | June Tabor and Martin Simpson | A Cut Above | Topic 12TS410 | 1980

There’s something quite special about June Tabor’s voice, though I’ve never been able to put my finger on exactly what it is.  When I first saw June in a folk club in the 1980s, she was joined by Martin Simpson, a guitarist who was also something quite special, although in his case I knew exactly what it was.  Put the two together and sparks would fly.  A Cut Above from 1980 demonstrates this chemistry perfectly with timeless vocal performances, wonderful phrasing, astonishing guitar playing, great songs and great boots.  Mainly June and Martin, the album also features contributions from a pre-Fairport Convention Ric Sanders on fiddle, who would join the celebrated folk rock outfit four years later, Dave Bristow on keyboards and Jon Davie on bass.  The stand out songs include possibly the definitive reading of Richard Thompson’s “Strange Affair” and a spine-tingling version of the late Bill Caddick’s “Unicorns”.

Singled Out | Frankie Miller | Darlin’ | Chrysalis CHS 2255 | 1978

Written by sax player Oscar Blandamer in 1970, “Darlin’” wasn’t to find success for another seven years when it was recorded by the British band Poacher and shortly afterwards by Glaswegian rock singer Frankie Miller, who took the song to number six in the British charts, despite the singer’s disapproval of the song.  Produced by Dave Mackay, the single was apparently recorded due to pressure from Miller’s record label in order to record something a little more commercial than his usual fare.  According to Ray Minhinnett, the guitarist on Miller’s 1977 album Full House, when Miller finally met the songwriter in a club after recording the song, he swore at him and allegedly poured a bottle of ketchup all over him.  I often wonder what would’ve happened if the song had been “Agadoo”.

Fifty Years Ago | Roger Daltry | Daltry | Track 2406-107 | April 1973

Following Pete Townshend’s Who Came First (1972) and bassist John Entwistle’s Smash Your Head Against the Wall (1971) and Whistle Rymes (1972), it was time for the Who’s frontman to release his debut album.  Joining forces with Adam Faith, he of “What Do You Want” and “Poor Me” fame, not to mention his memorable stint as your regular Cockney rebel Budgie in the early 1970s, Roger Daltry delivers a surprisingly pop oriented debut, featuring songs written by David Courtney and Leo Sayer, notably “One Man Band” and “Giving it all Away”, both songs later recorded by Sayer for his second LP release Just a Boy a year later.  The memorable back lit photograph of Daltry on the cover is pretty much a precursor to the image of Tommy, the role he played in Ken Russell’s interpretation of the Who’s rock opera a couple of years later.  Apparently, the closing track on the album, a busking-styled reprise of “One Man Band”, features a vocal performance recorded in precisely the same spot where the Beatles gave their final live performance, up on the roof above Apple Studios along Savile Row.

145 | 28 APRIL 2023

Flick the Dust Off | Alice Cooper | School’s Out | Warner Brothers K56007 | 1972

The title song on this album seemed to sum up the last three minutes of my high school years, with three simple words, School’s Out Forever – poetry to my ears.  I imagine now that the level of contempt I had for authority back then, namely my teachers, contributed to my disdain for school as an institution and Alice Cooper’s summer anthem perfectly matched the way I was feeling at the time.  How fortuitous then, to leave school in 1972 and have an anthem to mark the occasion.  The LA-based band I’d witnessed with some disbelief on Top of the Pops during those few weeks, whose frontman dressed from head to toe in black leather with smeared and spidery black mascara dripping from each of his piercing blue eyes, seemed to speak to this 15-year-old.  Brandishing a theatrical sword, which he pointed menacingly at the camera, appeared to me at the time, to be to the Seventies what West Side Story was to the Fifties, as told by rival youth gangs, echoed in “Gutter Cats vs the Jets”, the flip side of the lead single and the third number on the first side of this album.  By this time, the band had already been around for a good four years, yet it was this fifth album release, along with its title song, that helped transform the band from the novelty act they previously were, to the glam rock superstars they were to become shortly afterwards.  Encased in a cover resembling a vintage 1960s school desk, complete with legs and hinged lid revealing typical schoolboy detritus, including a pair of knickers, designed by Craig Braun, the album climbed the UK album charts to number four, almost as quickly as the single raced to the number one spot, the album only surpassed by its successor Billion Dollar Babies the following year.

Singled Out | Phoebe Snow | Every Night | CBS 6842 | 1978

In 1978, one particular song stood out in the repertoire of New York singer-songwriter Phoebe Snow, a familiar song from the pen of Paul McCartney.  “Every Night” had appeared on McCartney’s self-titled debut solo album in 1970 just after the break-up of The Beatles.  Phoebe Snow’s version of the song was produced by Phil Ramone and Barry Beckett and was released just prior to Snow’s fifth album Against the Grain, the song being the album’s lead track.  Other tracks on the album included a Patti Austin and a Maggie Roche, “In My Life” and “The Married Men” respectively.  In 2011, after several subsequent solo album releases and a series of guest appearances with such prominent artists as Paul Simon, Dave Mason, Janis Ian and Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Phoebe Snow died after suffering a cerebral haemorrhage at the age of just 60. 

Fifty Years Ago | Incredible String Band | No Ruinous Feud | Reprise MS2139 | April 1973

The one thing I distinctly recall about the Incredible String band’s eleventh album release, was the overblown advertising campaign, the album sleeve plastered all over the music press at the time, with ads in all the majors, New Musical Express, Melody Maker, Sounds and Disc and Music Echo. My immediate reaction to seeing this album sleeve was to ask ‘who are these blokes and where are all the women?’  Where’s Liccy and who is that in the hat?  Is that Mike Heron in a tie?  What’s happening?  I was confused.  It appeared to me that time was moving on and so was the ISB.  I placed the needle on the grooves with some suspicion.  No Ruinous Feud was to be the band’s penultimate album, the band calling it a day after their next release Hard Rope and Silken Twine the following year.  Though the band’s folk roots were still to be found here, certainly on such songs as “At the Lighthouse Dance” and the Fairport-like instrumental, simply entitled “Jigs”, the band appeared to be in search of other sounds, such as Reggae on “Second Fiddle”, Country on their cover of Dolly Parton’s “My Blue Tears”, and perhaps unfortunately, Heron almost falling hopelessly into easy listening mode with the throwaway “Turquoise Blue”.   No Ruinous Feud is a mish mash of experimentation and amounts to little, though even fifty years on, I still quite enjoy the opener “Explorer” which in places could be mistaken for a Cat Stevens album outtake.

146 | 5 MAY 2023

Flick the Dust Off | Traffic | Mr Fantasy | Island ILP961 | 1967

There are one or two moments on Traffic’s debut LP when you have to accept the passage of time, certainly the decidedly bizarre “Berkshire Poppies”, a strange follow up to the album’s superb opener “Heaven is in Your Mind”.  Despite the five figures on the blood red dowsed cover, the band at the time consisted of the original quartet of Steve Winwood, Jim Capaldi, Chris Wood and Dave Mason.  Mr Fantasy was recorded at Olympic Studios in London with producer Jimmy Miller at the helm, though Island Records was still in its infancy, Traffic being one of the label’s first rock bands on its roster.  Psychedelic Rock was very much in vogue during the so called Summer of Love and Mr Fantasy was loaded with plenty of Sitar and hammond Organ, plus the sort of whimsical material associated with the genre, certainly “House for Everyone”, with its idiosyncratic opening and for that matter, its conclusion.  Winwood comes into his own on the gorgeous “No Face, No Name, No Number”, an album highlight for sure.  “Dear Mr Fantasy”, the title song, is perhaps an update of Dylan’s “Mr Tambourine Man”, in much the same way as Lindisfarne’s “Meet Me on the Corner” would be a couple of years later, another call for Mr Dream Seller to lay it on us, whatever ‘it’ might be.

Singled Out | Jonathan Kelly | Make a Stranger Your Friend | Parlophone R5830 | 1970

Many a long-time fan of Jonathan Kelly would admit to discovering the Irish singer songwriter with the release of his 1972 breakthrough album Twice Around the Houses, which featured such memorable songs as “Sligo Fair”, “Ballad of Cursed Anna” and “We’re Alright Till Then”.  However, Jonathan Kelly, formerly Jonathan Ledingham, had already released his debut LP a couple of years earlier, copies of which are now like gold dust.  Around the same time, Kelly released a single on the Parlophone label, the country-inflected “Make a Stranger Your Friend”, backed with the curiously titled “Daddy Don’t Take Me Down Fishing No More”, the penultimate song on Kelly’s debut LP.  “Make a Stranger Your Friend” carries a positive and optimistic message, delivered with an uplifting chorus, encouraging the listener to go out and befriend a stranger.  Jonathan Kelly died on 2 May 2020, after a long illness.  A much missed friend and a stranger to none.

Fifty Years Ago | Paul Simon | There Goes Rhymin’ Simon | CBS 69035 | May 1973

Paul Simon’s third solo album, which followed hot on the heels of his self-titled second album of the previous year, has possibly improved with age.  There Goes Rhymin’ Simon is still highly listenable today, fifty years on, not least for such songs as “Kodachrome”, “Take Me to the Mardi Gras” and the superb “Loves Me Like a Rock”, featuring some spine-tingling harmonies by the Dixie Hummingbirds.  Recorded in various locations, including Columbia Studios in New York City, A&R Recording in New York City, Malaco Recording Studios in Jackson, Mississippi, Morgan Studios in London and the legendary Muscle Shoals Sound Studio in Alabama, the album remains rich in variety.  The album is also noted for a small contribution by the pre-Roches Maggie and Terre Roche, still working as a duo before sibling Suzzy joined to create the wonderful trio shortly afterwards.  The two sisters are pictured in the centre spread of the gatefold sleeve.  The gospel and Dixieland influences further emphasise Simon’s already present interest in multiple musical genres, something he would bring to full fruition with the landmark Graceland album thirteen years later.

147 | 12 MAY 2023

Flick the Dust Off | Neil Young | Everyone Knows This is Here | Reprise RS6349 | 1969

Wrapped in a grainy gatefold sleeve, showing a gangly 23-year-old Young leaning against a tree with his dog Winnipeg at his feet, Everyone Knows This is Here is the Canadian’s second solo album, albeit his first with Crazy Horse, a band made up of key players, Danny Whitten on guitar, Billy Talbot on bass and Ralph Molina on drums.  The album appeared in quick succession to his debut self-titled album, released just six months after its release, yet it showed great potential, assisted in no small part by at least three signature songs that would feature in Young’s live set for many years to come, those being the driving “Cinnamon Girl”, the country inflected title song, the almost anthemic “Down by the River” and the sprawling ten minute opus “Cowgirl in the Sand”, all allegedly written in a single day.  The gypsy violin on “Running Dry (Requiem for the Rockets)”, courtesy Bobby Notkoff, was echoed seven years later, when Bob Dylan invited Scarlet Rivera to add embellishment to the songs on Desire.  It’s interesting to find that Young’s vocal on the title song was actually a low quality test take, which the musician liked enough to keep for the finished product.

Singled Out | Thunderclap Newman | Accidents | Track 2094 001 | 1970

Thunderclap Newman was the brainchild of one Pete Townshend, he of The Who fame, a trio made up of John ‘Speedy’ Keen, Jimmy McCulloch and namesake Andy ‘Thunderclap’ Newman.  The band achieved much success with their single “Something’s in the Air”, a huge hit for the band in 1969, reaching the top of the singles charts in the spring of that year.  Though not quite as successful as its predecessor, “Accidents” remains an achievement in itself, simply due to its lavish arrangement, especially its almost ten-minute expanded version, which closed the first side of the band’s one and only studio album Hollywood Dream.  Like the title suggests, “Accidents”, is a slightly morbid song that tells of the shuffling off of one or two kids, having met their respective demise, one by drowning and one by a speeding car.  Despite the enormous popularity of “Something in the Air”, this is perhaps their superior recording, certainly their most inventive, even in its shortened for single release version.

Fifty Years Ago | Wishbone Ash | Wishbone Four | MCA MDKS8011 | May 1973

A favourite band from the era, Wishbone Ash’s appeal was still intact by the time of the band’s imaginatively titled fourth album, though its predecessor Argus was a hard act to follow.  The original line-up was still there, despite tensions within the ranks.  The familiar twin guitars of Ted Turner and Andy Powell, plus the rhythm section of Martin Turner on bass and Steve Upton on drums, maintained some of the band’s familiar sound, which was first revealed four years earlier, though in places, the band leaned towards a more acoustic feel, certainly on “Ballad of the Beacon”.   Wishbone Four was to be the last album with Ted Turner in the band, who would be replaced by Laurie Wisefield for their next few albums.  Though the album stands up to scrutiny fifty years on, it has to be said that there’s no “Phoenix”, no “The King Will Come” or even “Vas Dis” here.

148 | 19 MAY 2023

Flick the Dust Off | The Flatlanders | One Road More | Charly CRM 2038 | 1980

I have to confess, I didn’t really get to hear the debut LP by The Flatlanders until well after the band folded in the early 1970s. The songs on One Road More were recorded in 1972 at the Singleton Sound Studio in Nashville, featuring the band’s three lead members Butch Hancock, Jimmie Dale Gilmore and Joe Ely, all of whom have subsequently carved out successful solo careers, together with Tommy Hancock (no relation to Butch), Sylvester Rice and Steve Wesson, who provided the musical saw on such songs as “Tonight I Think I’m Gonna Go Downtown” and “One Day at a Time”.  The Jimmie Rodgers influence is nowhere clearer than on the yodelling “Waiting for a Train”, which opens the second side, a song that features Gilmore’s distinctive voice, a clear homage to the singing cowboy.  Most people probably remember this album for Gilmore’s paean to the Big D “Dallas” and it’s opening line ‘Did you ever see Dallas from a DC9 at night?’, again with that weird theremin-like musical saw humming along.  Short-lived but phenomenally influential to future generations of Country and Americana songwriters, The Flatlanders have since enjoyed one or two reunions to varying degrees of success.

Singled Out | Maggie Bell | Hazell | Swan Song SSK19412 | 1978

I first saw Maggie Bell at one of her final performances fronting her then band Stone the Crows during their Ontinuous Performance tour at Sheffield City Hall on 30 September 1972.  This was after the tragic death of guitarist Les Harvey, brother of Alex Harvey, who I would also later see at the same venue.  The singer dominated the stage with her raw bluesy voice and Joplin-esque stage presence.  The Glaswegian vocalist continued as a solo artist through the 1970s after the break-up of the band, remaining under the management of Led Zeppelin’s notoriously fearsome manager Peter Grant, releasing the Suicide Sal album in 1975, plus a handful of singles including this, each on Zep’s Swan Song label.  “Hazell” was the theme song to the TV drama series centred around a cockney private detective James Hazell, played by Nicholas Ball, which ran for two series in the late 1970s.

Fifty Years Ago | Gong | Flying Teapot | Virgin V2002 | May 1973

Gong’s third album Flying Teapot is possibly best remembered as being the second album to be issued on the newly established Virgin record label, being released on the same day as the more well known Tubular Bells by Mike Oldfield, which had the catalogue number V1001.  Flying Teapot, subtitled Radio Gnome Invisible Part 1, also saw the arrival of Chingford guitarist Steve Hillage,  initially as a contributing musician to the first in a trilogy of albums, the others being Angel’s Egg and You, for which Hillage had by then joined a s a fully-fledged member of the band.  With one or two fun numbers, notably “The Pot Head Pixies”, a bizarre pop tune, with spoken interludes, which sound as if delivered by Spike Milligan’s ‘Eccles’ character, the album remains accessible and is probably most remembered for the twelve and a half minute title piece, a jazz workout reminiscent of Weather Report.  The LP was issued in two different gatefold sleeve versions, both featuring cartoonish paintings of the titular teapot, designed by Dingo and Maggie, not to mention Tom Fu, as indicated in speech bubbles on the inner spread.  One of those LP sleeves that was generous to those of us who read it on the bus ride home.

149 | 26 MAY 2023

Flick the Dust Off | Bert Jansch | LA Turnaround | Charisma CAS 1090 | 1974

In the mid-1980s I had a cassette recording of both A Rare Conundrum and L.A. Turnaround, two Bert Jansch albums released in the early 1970s on the Charisma record label, both albums of which were borrowed from a guitarist friend at the time.  The two LPs effectively rekindled my enthusiasm for folk music in a time when the Blues was my only source of interest.  The album was notable in that it was co-produced by the ex-Monkee Michael Nesmith, who also played guitar on the album and Danny Thompson, who didn’t.  The bass duties were fulfilled by Klaus Voorman instead.  The LP sleeve featured one of the lasting images of the highly influential guitar player, sitting in the studio with a guitar on his knee, a cigarette hanging limply from his mouth, while the sun flooded the studio with what was presumably Californian light.  It’s an album sleeve I could look at all day long.  A much missed musician whose songs and instrumentals have influenced so many since, notably “Fresh as a Sweet Sunday Morning”, “One for Jo”, “Chambertin” and a reworking of an older song, “Needle of Death”.

Singled Out | Gordon Lightfoot | The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald | Reprise K14451 | 1976

Whenever I have interviewed Canadian musicians, especially singer songwriters, all the usual compatriots enter the conversation at some point, Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, Leonard Cohen.  ‘Don’t forget Gordon Lightfoot’ comes the response from the interviewee. Canada is proud of this man and for obvious reasons. He has been around the block, written one or two, or several dozen, excellent songs and has flown the maple leaf for his tribe. When Gordon Lightfoot died last month, he left a legacy of remarkable songs, “Early Morning Rain”, “If You Could Read My Mind”, “Ribbon of Darkness” and “Daylight Katy” among them.  “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” was written to commemorate the sinking of the SS Edmund Fitzgerald on Lake Superior a few days earlier and released as a single a year later.

Fifty Years Ago | Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen | Country Casanova | MCA PAS6054 | May 1973

Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen was formed in 1967 by George Frayne IV, who adopted the moniker ‘Commander Cody’ and remained as such until his death in 2021.  Country Casanova is the band’s third album release, which first hit the shelves in June 1973, wrapped in a cover that showed our hero leaning against a gleaming white Lincoln Continental, which belonged to photographer Jim Marshall, who also took the snap, with a bored looking donkey,  also allegedly called ‘George’, looking on.  There’s no doubting the level of musicianship involved in the making of this largely Western Swing album, notably the guitar playing of Bill Kirchen (misspelt Kircher on the sleeve), who I once saw playing a trombone, whilst negotiating the table tops at the lamented Rockingham Arms in Wentworth sometime in the 1990s; or was it just a dream?  The album includes a pretty faithful reading of Buddy Holly’s “Rave On”, a fabulous version of the old Merle Travis hit “Smoke! Smoke! Smoke! (That Cigarette)” and more infamously, “Everybody’s Doin’ It”, with its multiple expletives ensuring little radio play, especially back in 1973.