News for June 2014
Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – Selections from “Popshopping Volume 1” by Various Artists
Popshopping is a compilation of German TV commercial production music from the 1960s and 1970s. Compilation producers Sir D’Oeuvre and Senor 45 collected these tracks from flexi discs and dusty TV production tape vaults.
Many may consider this music nothing more than a bunch of blaring, dated background noise, but to others (including me), this is highly stylized and inventive music created by some of Germany’s finest composers including Christian Bruhn, Max Meir-Maltez, Klaus Wuestoff, Gert Wilden and Johnny Teupen.
Today’s Song Of The Day includes Christian Bruhn’s music for Ford Capri, Ford Taurus and “Komm In Fahrt” for Hansa-Pils commercials (all 1973), Klaus Wuesthoff’s “Swing A Little, Kim A Little” (1967), Klaus Doldinger’s “Wild Freshness” (1970) and Max Meir-Maltez’s music for Moulinex (1972). All of the tracks collected here are exceedingly groovy, as is the companion compilation to this one, Popshopping Volume 2!
Edited: June 29th, 2014
Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Fight The Power” by Public Enemy
This track is ground zero in all of hip hop and perhaps the most in your face rap single of all time! While Public Enemy are no doubt the most influential rap group of all time, they were also the most innovative with their sampling and dynamic backing tracks provided by brothers Hank and Keith Shocklee, also known as The Bomb Squad.
The Shocklee brothers had their own mobile DJ business called Spectrum City DJs who also counted Professor Griff amongst its employees. Carlton Ridenhour, also known as Chuck D, was an aspiring graphic designer who offered to design some posters for the Spectrum City crew while he was a radio DJ at WBAU, the Adelphi College radio station. At one point, he also told them he could emcee, and along with another WBAU regular, Flavor Flav (William Drayton Jr.), and local DJ, Terminator X (Norman Rogers), Public Enemy was born.
Right from the start, PE’s sound was a mix of the serious brought out by Chuck D’s politically charged topical messages cooled off by the somewhat slacker presence of D’s amiable sidekick Flavor Flav, all supported by the hyper-charged backing tracks of The Bomb Squad.
It was through WBAU program director Bill Stephney that they came to the attention of producer Rick Rubin who signed them to his Def Jam record label and released their first album Yo! Bum Rush The Show in 1987. The group followed that record with the earth shattering It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back, which was the first rap album to top the Village Voice’s Pazz and Jop Poll in 1988.
This song comes from their no less essential third release Fear Of A Black Planet from 1990 and it later turned up as the centerpiece of the “Spike Lee joint” Do The Right Thing. Other singles on this album included “Welcome To The Terrordome” and “911 Is A Joke” in which, Flavor Flav and company take on the response times of 911 in black neighborhoods.
Edited: June 26th, 2014
Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Reincarnation Of A Lovebird” by Charles Mingus
You can almost see the flight of the bird in question during the introduction of this masterwork by bassist Charles Mingus.
However, this bird is actually Charlie Parker, with whom Mingus performed on many occasions and to whom this song is dedicated. In Mingus’ own words: “I wouldn’t say I set out to write a piece on Bird. I knew it was a mournful thing when I was writing it. Suddenly I realize it was Bird. [...] It’s mainly about my misunderstanding of Bird […] In one way, the work isn’t like him. It’s built on long lines and most of his pieces were short lines. But it’s my feeling about Bird. I felt like crying when I wrote it.” (Nat Hentoff from The Clown liner notes)
Mingus was a master at orchestral Jazz in the same category as Duke Ellington, but where Ellington was always tasteful and pleasing; Mingus’ M-O was more challenging and deeply emotional, with a penchant for the jagged and gnarly alongside the tuneful and lovely. And with Dannie Richmond on drums to complete the rhythm section, Mingus could certainly swing, as evidenced on this classic from the 1957 album The Clown. The lineup on this track includes Shafi Hadi (aka Curtis Porter) on alto and tenor saxophone, Jimmy Knepper on trombone, Wade Legge on piano and Dannie Richmond on drums.
Edited: June 25th, 2014
Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Easy Come Easy Go” by Cass Elliot
Only in the 1960s could someone as robust as Cass Elliot become an equally big star. Sure, she had talent to burn and a set of unrivalled pipes, but in this day of the thinner than thin in showbiz, she just would not have stood a chance…and a shame it would have been indeed.
The former Ellen Cohen was born in Maryland and got her start as part of the folk trio, The Big Three along with James Hendricks, whom she was married to for a time in an effort for him to avoid the draft, and Tim Rose. When Rose left the group in 1964, future Lovin’ Spoonful member Zal Yanovsky and Denny Doherty joined their ranks and they became The Mugwumps.
Shortly thereafter, Yanovsky joined forces with John Sebastian while Doherty joined The New Journeymen who counted John Phillips and his wife Michelle amongst their ranks. After Cass joined the fold, the group would soon become The Mamas And The Papas. Of course you can listen to their track,“Creeque Alley” to have the blanks filled in for you.
It would only be a matter of time before Cass, the ultimate hippy chick would record on her own, and with the help of extensive television work, she began to have her own hits. Her records were pure pop affairs cut at Western Recorders in LA in the late 60s and early 70s featuring a who’s who of Wrecking Crew favorites including on this track Hal Blaine, Joe Osborne, Larry Knechtel, Steve Barri and Phil Kaye.
Today’s song of the day is better known for Bobby Sherman’s version than Cass’, but I think the 1971 production values and arrangements on this version make it much better. It is originally from her album Bubble Gum, Lemonade &…Something For Mama whose cover image was framed in chewed bubble gum. Elliot died in London in 1974 of a heart attack (and not from choking on a ham sandwich) in the same flat that Keith Moon would die, at the same age four years later.
Edited: June 24th, 2014
Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “He’s My Baby” by Jean Shepard
There was an interesting time during the late 1950s where straight Country and Western music melded with then-burgeoning Rock ‘n’ Roll and Rhythm ‘n’ Blues, giving birth to a new form of music called Rockabilly. Capitol records was a hotbed for Rockabilly recording crossover artists like Ferlin Husky, Faron Young, Wanda Jackson, Hank Thompson, Jerry Reed, Gene Vincent and Skeets McDonald.
Jean Shepard was a member of The Grand Ole Opry who scored her first #1 hit back in 1953 as a duet with Ferlin Husky called “A Dear John Letter” and followed it with the top 10 hit “A Satisfied Mind” a few years later. She went on to become a star of recorded music and TV variety shows during the 1950s and recorded this early Rockabilly gem in 1958.
She married Hawkshaw Hawkins in 1960 who would perish in the same plane crash that took Patsy Cline and Cowboy Copas and went on to have country chart hits throughout the 1960s and 1970s. She was inducted into the Country Music Hall Of Fame in 2011.
Edited: June 22nd, 2014
Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Think” by The 5 Royales
If ever a group deserved to be in the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall Of Fame, it should be The 5 Royales.
Not only were they a pioneering R’n’B and Doo Wop vocal group, but they had one of the greatest songwriters of the era in Lowman “Pete” Pauling as a member. Pauling wrote most of the Royales’ material and many of their songs went on to be big hits for others.
The 5 Royales were formed in North Carolina in the early 1950s and consisted of Lowman “Pete” Pauling, Jimmy Moore, Obadiah Carter, Otto Jeffries and Johnny Tanner. They recorded for King Records and had chart success with songs like “Monkey Hips And Rice,” “Baby Don’t Do It” and “Somebody Help Me.” But it was the songs that were penned by Pauling and recorded by others that really made them legends.
The group was responsible for introducing today’s Song Of The Day that later went on to be a big soul hit for James Brown. They also recorded the original versions of “Dedicated To The One I Love” made famous by both The Shirelles and The Mamas & The Papas, and “Tell The Truth” which was originally recorded by Ray Charles.
Edited: June 19th, 2014
Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Disseminated” by Soul Coughing
Mike Doughty was once the doorman for The Knitting Factory, a downtown New York City club that specialized in avant-garde jazz and off-the-wall rock music. It was through his association with the musicians that frequented the club that Soul Coughing was born.
Doughty had been a poet in college and it is his off-beat poetry mingled with the adventurous sampling of cohort Mark De Gli Antoni that typified their music. The original lineup of Soul Coughing featured M. Doughty on guitar and vocals, sampler extraordinaire Mark De Gli Antoni, Sebastian Steinberg on upright bass and drummer Yuval Gabay.
The band recorded three exceptional albums “Ruby Vroom,” “Irresistible Bliss” and “El Oso” before suffering an acrimonious breakup over songwriting credits and royalties. Doughty has gone on to release numerous solo records, most of them quite excellent.
This song comes from the group’s 1996 second album Irresistible Bliss. The featured sample is Raymond Scott’s “The Penguin.” Scott’s music was adapted by Carl Stalling for numerous Warner Bros. Looney Tunes cartoons.
Edited: June 18th, 2014
Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “East Of Ginger Trees” by Seals & Crofts
The duo of Jim Seals and Dash Crofts were one of the most successful soft rock groups of the 1970s. The duo hailed from Texas and after gigging around they both joined The Champs of “Tequila” fame as touring members of the group.
Glen Campbell was also a member of the group and the three of them left and formed the group Glen Campbell and the GC’s. After the demise of the GC’s, Seals & Crofts decided to go it alone as a duo with Seals on guitar, violin and saxophone and Crofts on guitar and mandolin. It was around this time they began to follow the Baha’i Faith.
After releasing several albums that didn’t go anywhere, they finally hit with the album Summer Breeze in 1972 that properly highlighted their heavenly harmonies and songwriting chops. The title track became a top-ten hit, but the album also included such gems as “Hummingbird” and today’s Song Of The Day.
From there, the sky was the limit with the hits “Diamond Girl,” “Get Closer,” “We May Never Pass This Way (Again)” and “Hummingbird.” While I was a huge fan of their records, the duo lost me with the release of the 1974 album Unborn Child and it’s stance against abortion. They broke up in 1980 and have reformed sporadically over the years. They are long overdue for a reunion.
Edited: June 17th, 2014
Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Daddy’s Home” by Shep & The Limelites
Shep & The Limelites consisted of James “Shep” Sheppard, Clarence Bassett and Charles Bakersfield. They formed in Queens, New York in 1960 and are primarily remembered for their signature hit (and today’s Song Of The Day) “Daddy’s Home.”
Sheppard was originally a member of a group called The Heartbeats that signed with the Hull record label in the late 1950s. The group scored several minor hits on Hull including “Your Way,” “Baby Don’t Go” and “A Thousand Miles Away.” It was while a member of The Heartbeats that Sheppard co-wrote and recorded an early version of “Daddy’s Home” as their last single on Hull.
The Heartbeats met the demise of so many groups of the day and called it quits in 1959 after being ripped off by managers and not paid for their shows by promoters.
Two years later, Sheppard formed The Limelites with Bassett and Bakersfield and were once again signed by Hull Records. Their first single as The Limelites was “Daddy’s Home,” which soared all the way to the number two position on the charts in 1961 and was covered by the likes of PJ Proby, Jermaine Jackson, Toots & The Maytals and Cliff Richard. The group scored several other hits including “What Did Daddy Do,” “Ready For Your Love” and “Our Anniversary.”
The group continued until 1966 before breaking up. Sheppard was found shot to death in his car on the Long Island Expressway in January of 1970. He had just reformed The Limelites and was beginning to tour the rock and roll revival circuit.
Edited: June 15th, 2014
Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Long, Long, Long” by The Beatles
One of George Harrison’s most underrated songs and a highlight of The White Album for sure. The song was actually recorded by “The Threetles” since John Lennon was not present for any of the sessions.
Lennon’s absence kind of illustrates the short shrift that Harrison’s songs were given during Beatle recording sessions, considering that songs like “Something,” “Not Guilty” and “Sour Milk Sea” were left off The White Album and “All Things Must Pass” “Isn’t It A Pity” and “Let It Down” were left off of Let It Be in favor of much weaker material like “Dig It,” “Maggie Mae” and “Good Night.”
The rattling heard during the psychedelic meltdown at the end of the track was from a bottle of wine that was left on top of a speaker during the recording. Happy “mistakes” like this were often left in making the recording more interesting and more psychedelic. “Long, Long, Long” is one in a long line of Harrison love songs that can be directed at either his wife or the Lord.
Edited: June 12th, 2014
Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “L.A.” by Neil Young
Today’s Song Of The Day is from Time Fades Away, an album that has become the great lost Neil Young record. It was recorded live on the road in 1973 on the heels of Harvest which was Young’s biggest album to date.
As usual Young did not give in to fan expectations and performed mostly new rock ’n’ roll material on the tour that had little or no connection to the mellow country sound of Harvest. He has said in interviews that “It was recorded on my biggest tour ever, 65 shows in 90 days. Money hassles among everyone concerned ruined this tour and record for me but I released it anyway so you folks could see what could happen if you lose it for a while.” (Decade liner notes)
Young was so dissatisfied with the murky sound of the original vinyl record that he never released it on CD. It has been completely out of print for many years, yet it contains some of his greatest songs including “Don’t Be Denied,” “Journey Through The Past,” the title track and this song.
As recently as this past April’s Record Store Day, it was rumored that Young would release a remastered Time Fades Away on vinyl as part of a four record box set covering his 5th though 8th records. The release was cancelled at the last minute in favor of Young’s latest album A Letter Home.
Edited: June 11th, 2014
Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “I Can’t Stand It” by Chris Whitley
Chris Whitley’s short, restless career encompassed folk, noise rock, jazz, country, mainstream rock and the blues. He was discovered by producer Daniel Lanois who helped him score a major label record deal with Columbia Records in 1988.
His first album, Living With The Law was a mainstream rock affair with good songs that gave him radio exposure, but it wasn’t until his second album and third albums, Din Of Ecstasy and Terra Incognita that Whitley came into his own with great songs ensconced in noise.
After being dropped by Columbia he began releasing records independently including his covers album Perfect Day where he was backed by Jazz musicians Chris Wood and Billy Martin (of Medeski, Martin & Wood). He also released some terrific solo acoustic records that are well worth seeking out.
Not only was Whitley a great songwriter, but he also had a knack for choosing interesting covers by artists like Bob Dylan, Kraftwerk, Gary Numan, Prince, The Clash, Nat King Cole, The Doors and many others. Today’s Song Of The Day is “I Can’t Stand It” one of his more inspired covers originally by The Velvet Underground. The track is from his War Crime Blues album which was originally released ten years ago.
Whitley died of lung cancer in 2005. He leaves behind his daughter, Trixie who has recorded several records under the name Black Dub with Daniel Lanois. She has also released four solo albums to date.
Edited: June 10th, 2014
Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Tahitian Moon” by Porno For Pyros
Jack White… Prince… Jerry Garcia…Bruce Springsteen…David Byrne…Curt Cobain…Perry Farrell…all world-class performers with charisma to burn! The type of performer you can’t take your eyes off of when they’re on stage.
Some like Jerry Garcia didn’t have to do much but just show up and play to be the focal point of their band…but the others worked their tails off honing their stage craft and earning the well-deserved adulation they received. Now, I’m sure some of you are thinking that Perry Farrell doesn’t belong in that heady company, and my answer to you is that you probably never saw him front Porno For Pyros.
Out of the ashes of Jane’s Addiction rose Porno For Pyros with Stephen Perkins (also from J.A.) on drums, plus guitarist Peter DiStefano and bass player Martyn LeNoble. For some, Jane’s Addiction were the be-all and end-all of Farrell’s music career, but I’ve always found Porno For Pyros’ two albums to be far more interesting and musically satisfying than anything from Jane’s Addiction.
This song comes from Good God’s Urge , Porno’s second album released in 1996. By then they had established themselves with “Pets,” a bona-fide hit that was a MTV staple and a highlight of the Woodstock ’94 festival.
Of course, Farrell will always be linked with the Lollapalooza festival he founded 23 years ago, which has found a home for the last decade here in Chicago where you can see Farrell either fronting a band or spinning a DJ set most years.
Edited: June 9th, 2014
Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Outside Now” by Frank Zappa
I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with Frank Zappa’s Joe’s Garage record. As usual, Zappa’s heart was in the right place when it came to issues like government control, censorship and organized religion, and he certainly could play guitar. But I never really got off on Zappa’s scatological and somewhat immature lyrical side.
Joe’s Garage highlights the best and worst of what Zappa had to offer. For amazing guitar work and musically challenging material, you didn’t have to look much further than tracks like “Watermelon And Easter Hay,” “Packard Goose” and today’s Song Of The Day “Outside Now.” Even though some of the lyrics are a little wanting, they work because the music is so good. Listen to this track and it’s hard to deny that Zappa was one of the greatest guitarists of all time.
However, the Joe’s Garage albums are littered with songs that are perverted and immature like “Crew Slut,” “Keep It Greasy” “Wet T Shirt Night” and “Catholic Girls” that offer little in the realm of enlightenment. Now, I do have a sense of humor and I get Zappa’s brand of satire, but unfortunately many who listen to this stuff take it seriously and that’s where things get a little sticky for me.
That said, I do believe they will be studying the music of Frank Zappa many years into the future…
Edited: June 8th, 2014
Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Freeway Jam” by Jeff Beck
Nothing prepared rock fans for the transformation that took place in the mid-70s when Jeff Beck joined forces with producer George Martin on his albums Blow By Blow and Wired.
Beck, of course, was well known as the blues-based British rocker from the Yardbirds and The Jeff Beck Group who dabbled in jazz, but cut his teeth on what is now considered classic rock. By 1975, Beck’s band consisted of Phil Chen on bass, Richard Bailey on drums and Max Middleton, the sole holdover from The Jeff Beck Group, on keyboards.
The sound was full-on instrumental Fusion Jazz which was previously the domain of Miles Davis, Weather Report and Return To Forever. Beck’s foray into Fusion culminated with several records pairing his guitar work with the keyboard mastery of Jan Hammer. “Freeway Jam” was written by Max Middleton and is from “Blow By Blow. The album featured an assist from Stevie Wonder who played keyboards on the track “Thelonious.” Beck had previously performed guitar duties on Wonder’s Talking Book album.
Edited: June 6th, 2014
Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Graduation Day” by The Beach Boys
The Four Freshman took this song to the top twenty back in 1956 and the Wilson brothers were listening. And while The Beach Boys certainly were influenced by the Freshmen, the Freshmen were in turn influenced by vocal groups of the Big Band Era like The Pied Pipers and The Modernaires, as well as the close harmonies employed by numerous Barbershop Quartets that came before them. The song celebrates a rite of passage that many are embarking upon as we speak. I was torn between choosing this vocal group gem, or to let it all hang out and go with “School’s Out” by Alice Cooper.
Edited: June 5th, 2014
Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “She’s My Baby” by Wings
Wings At The Speed Of Sound, the 1976 album where this song is from is one of Paul McCartney’s slighter efforts recorded quickly to have a some product on the shelves in time for the Wings Over America” tour of 1976. That said, it does have its charms…”Beware My Love,” “Time To Hide” and this breezy favorite.
Edited: June 4th, 2014