Monday, December 03, 2007

A Century in Jumps (Slight Return)


John Lennon, Good Morning, Good Morning (demo).
Dusty Springfield, What's It Gonna Be.
Laura Lee, Dirty Man.
The Techniques, Queen Majesty.
Delia Derbyshire, Chromophone Band.
The Nice, Azrial (Angel of Death).
Fantastic Johnny C, Boogaloo Down Broadway.
Anna Karina, Pistolet Jo.
Gilberto Gil, Roda.
Quarteto Novo, Vim de Sant'Ana.
Joe Tex, Show Me.
Oscar Toney Jr., That's All I Want From You.
The Rolling Stones, Get Yourself Together (I Can See It).
The Mops, Blind Bird.
The Unrelated Segments, Story of My Life.
Linda Jones, Hypnotized.
Bob Dylan and the Band, The Royal Canal.
Otis Redding, (Sittin' On the) Dock of the Bay (alternate take).
John Coltrane, Offering.
Ringo Starr, Radio London Signoff Message.

Another Be-In on the Panhandle today. Quicksilver Messenger Service. Afterwards, I walk Haight Street, thousands of people now, everything happening so fast as the news hits the rest of the country.

Lots of people filming & snapping pictures. Evangelist on the corner telling everyone about the coming of Christ, the fall of the power structure next spring. Kid handing out clothes to girl embarrassed by his generosity.

"I thought you wanted to sell them to me," she says.

"Money's absurd,” he says & laughs.

I meet Denise outside Drogstore Cafe. She's short, dark, round face, wide mouth. Ask her to go in for coffee; she gets on bus instead. Just about to leave when she comes running off & tells me she'll stay if I have a phone.

Hitching back to my place, girl picks us up in jeep. Hippie feminine but she shifts like a truck driver.

At my place we drink wine & pull down the wall bed. She puts in her diaphragm. I'm ecstatic.

"I hope this isn't going to be a transient thing," she says.

I assure her it won’t be.

Diary entry of Peter Vincent, 7 June 1967, San Francisco.

Good morning! John Lennon's piano demo of "Good Morning, Good Morning," recorded most likely in January 1967, is the embryo of what would become a galumphing, unstable (each phrase in the verse of the final track has a different number of beats), hilarious and bilious rant. Along with George Harrison's memento mori "Within You Without You" and "A Day in the Life," "Good Morning" is the shadow in an otherwise sunlit record--it's a view of the human circus from the perspective of the amused misanthrope, with a chorus phrase that resurfaces "like a chronic headache" (Alan Pollack), much like the television commercial that originally inspired Lennon to write the song. As a bonus, here is the tape of animal noises used in the final mix.

Dusty Springfield's "What's It Gonna Be" is analog-era studio pop perfection: a performance built on a collection of elements--descending bass, horror-movie strings, a guitar kept in the shadows, telegraph organ, girl chorus, drum fills--all of which build in intensity and desperation. Springfield sings the verse with restraint, but lets herself go at last, desperately wishing for something tangible from a lover she can't read. A quick, hushed breath; everyone resumes their places. Brutally, suddenly, they then slip into oblivion, the title question left unanswered.

Released as Philips 40498 c/w “Small Town Girl”; on 20th Century Masters.

Laura Lee Newton, born in Chicago in 1945, began singing professionally in a gospel group, and by the mid-'60s had become a top session singer, backing Wilson Pickett on “Mustang Sally.” She wrote "Dirty Man" about her manager, Edward Phelps (the song was originally titled "Dirty Old Man"). When she tried to cut the track at Chess Studios in Chicago, however, nothing worked. "They were not as warm and soulful," Lee said years later about the Chicago musicians and producers. "They had pre-eminence and they walked around and their suits and ties – they just didn’t have it!" Finally the producers decided to send Lee down to Fame Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama.

So "Dirty Man" finally came into being there, thanks to the relaxed groove provided by the regular Muscle Shoals crew, including Spooner Oldham, Roger Hawkins, David Hood and Jimmy Johnson. But it's Lee's singing--riotous, sensual, hard-edged--that turns the track from solid soul into something indescribably good. Released as Chess 2013 c/w “It’s Too Hard”; on That's How It Is.

Laura Lee's history is detailed on this site and here's the lady's own Myspace page.

Porter, Anne In a Striped Dress.

The Techniques' "Queen Majesty" is a remake of Curtis Mayfield's "Minstrel and Queen," with a lead vocal by Pat Kelly so delicate it seems as though it could break at any second. Duke Reid's production brings doo-wop and early soul down to Jamaica, converts them into rocksteady at its loveliest.

Released as Treasure Isle 7019 c/w “Fighting For Your Right”; on Blessed Love.

The British television show Doctor Who, notorious for its woeful special effects and occasional woeful performances, was musically quite avant-garde in its first decade, using the BBC's Radiophonic Workshop for its main theme and sometimes incidental music (the soundtrack to the Jon Pertwee serial The Sea Devils sounds like it was scored by Xenakis).

The dizzy "Chromophone Band"'s echoing, ghostly electronic heartbeat is an ancestor to all sorts of strange relations, from house beats to Timbaland's productions. Written by regular Who composer Dudley Simpson and realized by Delia Derbyshire, (shown here at her most charming in her laboratory in 1968). It's from the serial The Macra Terror, which aired in March 1967 (starring my favorite Doctor, Patrick Troughton), and which was set in a holiday camp overtaken by enormous sentient crabs.

On At the BBC Radiophonic Workship Vol. 1.

It's 1967, so naturally you're going to have a rock song about the Hebrew/Muslim angel of death at some point. The Nice, Keith Emerson's first band, "came together in a void" (John Peel)--they were assembled by ex-Rolling Stones manager Andrew Loog Oldham to back the soul singer P.P. Arnold and began recording on their own by late '67. Perhaps most remembered for Emerson's stage antics, such as burning the American flag and sticking knives in his keyboards, The Nice broke up in 1970.

"Azrial," one of their first tracks, features a great sludgy guitar riff by Davy O'List while the rest of the band hails the apocalypse. Released in November 1967 as Immediate 59, the b-side of "Thoughts of Emerlist Davjack"; now a bonus track on the Nice's first LP, Thoughts of Emerlist Davjack.

Kelly, Spectrum

The Fantastic Johnny C was born Johnny Corley, in Greenwood, SC, in 1943; he was discovered singing in a church choir by the singer/producer Jesse James. And James' "Boogaloo Down Broadway," which hits upon Wilson Pickett's recent "Funky Broadway" as well as trying to cash in on the boogaloo craze in New York (though the record was to boogaloo what "Alexander's Ragtime Band" was to ragtime), was Johnny C's only major hit.

Released as Jamie 920 c/w "Waiting for the Rain"; on Boogaloo Down Broadway.

Serge Gainsbourg's cod-Western ballad "Pistolet Jo" (who only slept with one eye closed, the other was "toujours ouvert") was sung by the actress Anna Karina in Pierre Koralnik's 1967 TV film Anna. Karina was in the process of breaking up with Jean-Luc Godard (a friend once showed up at their apartment to find the pair had destroyed every piece of furniture in the place during a fight, and were now sitting in separate corners of the living room, both naked), and she sings Gainsbourg's novelty with the gusto of someone enjoying a breath of silly liberation.

Released on the Anna soundtrack. Also from Anna--"Roller Girl".

Adam Clayton Powell, NYC.

By 1967, the anos de chumbo ("years of lead") had begun in Brazil. A military dictatorship which had seized power in 1964 was by now headed by president Artur da Costa e Silva, who ordered the Congress disbanded, banned all opposition parties and imposed harsh controls on the media, including cracking down on various undesirable musicians.

A year before the Brazilian singer/guitarist Gilberto Gil was arrested and sent to prison by the junta for "anti-government activity," he had recorded his debut album Louvação, from which the ebullient "Roda" ("Circle") comes. After getting out of jail, Gil and fellow dissident Caetano Veloso fled to London, where they spent the '70s in exile. After the military finally relinquished control in 1985, Gil returned to Brazil and was eventually named minister of culture.

The Quarteto Novo kept their politics to themselves, but their intricate rhythms and graceful solidarity--the players seem to anticipate each other's next breath--provided an elegant contrast to blundering fascism. The quartet consisted of Teo de Barros (bass and guitar), Heraldo do Monte (viola and guitar), Airto Moreira (drums) and flautist/pianist Hermeto Pascoal.

"Vim de Sant'Ana" is from the Quartet's self-titled debut LP from 1967; the band broke up two years later.

Joe Tex's "Show Me" is secretly half a country song--while it's got a driving R&B beat and soul horns, it was also recorded in Nashville, has some twanging guitar and is sung by Tex with some Western grit in his voice. And the song's subject--the happiness achieved by a man and woman settling down--is about as down home as you can get.

Recorded 1 February 1967, with Clyde Williams on drums, Lee Royal Hadley on guitar and Sly Sellers and Anthony Dorsey on the show-stealing trombones. Tex later claimed he wrote the song in four minutes. Released as Dial 4055 c/w "A Woman Sees A Hard Time (When Her Man Is Gone)"; on The Very Best.

In the high church of soul, Oscar Toney Jr. is a forgotten deacon, but his testimonies are worth seeking out. Toney, born in Selma, Ala., in 1939, as a youth sang in a gospel group, the Sensational Melodies of Joy. In "That's All I Want from You," Toney demands the apparently impossible--an everlasting, pure love--and uses the tools of gospel to seek for it. Midway through, though, he realizes his folly: "tomorrow's not promised to no one," he says. Released on the magnificent Bell LP For Your Precious Love.

Warhol, Marilyn

"Get Yourself Together" or "I Can See It" is the great lost Rolling Stones track--why they didn't release it in '67, when the band put out two records and several non-LP singles, remains a mystery (they certainly could have found room on Satanic Majesties, at least). It's a variation on the "19th Nervous Breakdown"/"Have You Seen Your Mother Baby" formula, in which Jagger, who in this period typically castigated his girls for not being hip or libertine enough for his tastes, at last grants his approval--maybe his girlfriend finally took acid, or at least slept with him. With a lead guitar that sounds strung with barbed wire, while Bill Wyman, Ian Stewart and Charlie Watts provide a rhythm bed as dense as granite. While not top-shelf Stones, it's better than pretty much anything they recorded after 1978.

Recorded in London during the Between the Buttons sessions, and never officially released. (The Chesterfield Kings eventually recorded a version.) Destined at some point to appear in a Wes Anderson film.

The Mops were a Japanese rock band, whose members were mostly high-school students: Tarou Miyuki (g), singer Hiromitu Suzuki, Kaoru Murakami (b), Mikiharu Suzuki (d), and lead guitarist/vocalist Masaru Hoshi. They began in 1966 by emulating the Ventures, then discovered the Animals and radically changed their style (lead singer Suzuki worshiped Eric Burdon). And in late 1967, after their manager suggested they become a psychedelic band, the band began performing blindfolded in the hopes of altering their perceptions--LSD being nearly impossible to find in Japan at the time. (Information from Julian Cope.)

"Blind Bird," the b-side of their first single, is probably the band's most well-known track in the U.S., in which Suzuki begs "Please kill me!" while the rest of the Mops howl and thrash about (in 6/8 time). The Mops eventually left psychedelia behind to become a heavy-metal act by the early '70s, before unfortunately breaking up--you could only imagine what they would have done with punk rock.

Released as the b-side of "Asamade Matenai," released in November 1967; on Psychedelic Sounds in Japan.

The Unrelated Segments' "Story of My Life" is an adolescent morality tale with guitars--the singer's just learned that money doesn't guarantee happiness, but unlike with the hippies, the concept enrages him.

The Segments were a quintet of Detroit high-school students--singer Ron Stults, guitarists Rory Mack and John Torok, bassist Barry VanEnglen (who does some wild runs toward the end of the track) and drummer Andy Angelotti. They recorded three singles for SVR Records (which was licensed by Hanna-Barbera)--"Story Of My Life," the first and best (recorded, with its b-side, in three and a half hours), was released in January 1967 as HBR 514 c/w "It's Unfair"; on Nuggets.

Linda Jones, born in Newark, NJ, in 1944, recorded for a number of labels in the early '60s, with nothing much to show for it, until she was discovered by songwriter/producers George Kerr and Jerry Harris, who got her better gigs and a contract with Warner Brothers subsidiary Loma Records.

“Hypnotized,” her first single for Loma and allegedly recorded in one take, is a flat-out masterpiece--while Jones sings of being under her lover's spell, it's her own phenomenal vocal that does the real transfixing. After "Hypnotized" Jones had a few more hits, but by 1972 the diabetes she had endured since childhood was worsening. After a show at the Apollo Theater in which she nearly collapsed and had to fight through her performance, Jones was rushed to the hospital, where she died a week later. She was 28. (Information from Mike Boone's profile on Jones.)

Released as Loma 2070 c/w “I Can’t Stop Loving My Baby”; on Greatest Hits.

Brendan Behan composed "The Royal Canal" (also known as "The Auld Triangle") for his first play, The Quare Fellow. The play, based on Behan's own imprisonment for much of the '40s in Mountjoy Gaol (he had been an IRA member during the war), opens with the song, which then continues as a refrain, sung off-stage throughout the play. "Royal Canal," originally sung by Behan himself, is a lament on the purgatorial nature of prison, of how each day bleeds into the next, of life reduced to mere routine. Or, as Avon Barksdale would say decades later, in The Wire: "You only do two days [in prison]--the day you go in, the day you come out."

During the early sessions of what would be known as the Basement Tapes, Bob Dylan rummaged through his past; each day in the basement he unearthed a new memory: Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger ballads, ancient folk songs like "Lang a Growin'," Luke the Drifter parables, contemporary material like Ian and Sylvia's "Four Strong Winds." And at some point, he retrieved "Royal Canal." By the time Dylan had arrived in New York in 1961, "Royal Canal" had become a Greenwich Village standard--it's likely Dylan learned it during his coffeehouse apprenticeship, possibly from Liam Clancy.

The Basement Tapes recording, in which Dylan appears to be teaching the Band the song as they play (which wasn't the case, as typically they would rehearse before rolling the tapes) is suffused with longing but also feels deadened--when Dylan sings about being with the women in the female prison, it's almost abject in its futility. With Robbie Robertson, Rick Danko, Richard Manuel, and Garth Hudson (providing the "triangle" noise via clavinette).

"With each day's details repeating, with never a new thought, no spark of passion, this is 'I Shall Be Released' without any hope of freedom." (Greil Marcus, Invisible Republic.) Recorded at "Big Pink," West Saugerties, NY, summer 1967; as yet not officially released. One day, maybe.

Otis Redding recorded "(Sittin' On the) Dock of the Bay" three days before his death in a plane crash on 10 December 1967. This is an alternate, earlier take (take 2), with a Redding vocal that's close to the equal of the master take--Redding sings the bridge with a bit less strength than in the master, while the whistling (which Steve Cropper said came about because Redding had forgotten a vocal fadeout they had rehearsed earlier) isn't quite there yet.

"Dock of the Bay" can't help but sounding like an epitaph, but it was intended more as a milestone--Redding acknowledging he was leaving his established base in soul and finding a wider audience (he had dominated the Monterey Pop festival a few months before). Redding had been listening to Sgt. Pepper, and there are indications "Dock of the Bay" would have been part of a song cycle, likely as the centerpiece: a reflection on time, a consideration of a passed life, and sung, as Dave Marsh wrote, "akin to the way a father's huge, calloused hands hold a tiny baby for the first time."

Recorded 6-7 December 1967; the official take was released in January 1968 as Volt 157 c/w "Sweet Lorene"; the master take is on Very Best, take 2 is on Remember Me.

John Coltrane's last recording session in February 1967, about five months before his death, produced six tracks later collected on the LP Expression--the finest, most epic performance being "Offering." "Offering" begins as confidently and serenely as "Love Supreme" until Coltrane begins to dig and tear into the piece, relentlessly repeating the same notes again and again--midway through, Coltrane begins to spar with drummer Rashied Ali, while sounding as though he's also dueting with himself. There's a joy in Coltrane's playing, a sense that the discoveries and triumphs he had achieved were a prelude to something greater, yet never realized; he proves, as Montaigne wrote, "our life is nothing but movement."

Recorded in Englewood Cliffs, NJ, on 15 February 1967, with Alice Coltrane on piano and Jimmy Garrison on bass; on Expression.

And finally, a sample of the final minutes broadcast on Radio London, the legendary UK pirate radio station shut down on 14 August 1967. Ringo offers his condolences, "A Day In the Life" plays, and then silence.

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