The Traveling Wilburys

In the eighties, I made no secret of my dislike for a lot of music during that period. When I heard The Traveling Wilburys in 1988 it was like an oasis in the desert. A band that contained George Harrison, Bob Dylan, Roy Orbison, Jeff Lynne and Tom Petty. I went out and bought the album Traveling Wilburys Volume 1 and wore it out. There is not a song on that album that I didn’t like.

George Harrison started the group with Jeff Lynne and eventually, they picked up Bob Dylan, Roy Orbison, and Tom Petty…not a bad choice of additions. Just hearing Bob Dylan sing lines like “You don’t need no wax job, you’re smooth enough for me If you need your oil changed, I’ll do it for you free” was the worth the price of the album.

Handle with Care was the first single and it went to #2 on the Billboard Mainstream Rock Songs charts. I was surprised when I researched the other charting songs of The Wilburys first album… End of the Line went to #2 on Billboard Mainstream Rock Songs, “Last Night” #5, “Heading For The Light” #7 “Inside Out” #16

Tweeter and the Monkey Man is my favorite song off of that album. Bob taking playful jabs at Bruce Springsteen. The song reminded me of some of his earlier work.

Hearing Roy Orbison and Bob Dylan singing together was something I never thought I would ever hear. Roy’s voice was magnificent as always and it is sad that he died two months after the album’s release.

On the second album, Vol 3 of course… the songs as a whole were not as strong but I still like the album. They did miss Roy’s vocals and presence. Again Dylan sang my favorite song on the album with “If You Belonged To Me” with Dylan sounding vulnerable.  She’s My Baby went to #2  and The Wilbury Twist got some radio play but nothing like Handle With Care.

They also recorded two other songs Runaway and Nobody’s Child which was recorded for a benefit album. They did an excellent job of Nobody’s Child.

This helped revive the career of Orbison…unfortunately he didn’t get to enjoy the success of his solo album and hit “You Got It.”

Two bright spots in the late eighties for me was The Traveling Wilburys and Keith Richard’s solo album Talk Is Cheap.

I really wish older rockers would try to do this sort of thing now. Let’s say Fogerty, McCartney, Young, Richards, and throw in a younger David Grohl…or fill in your own names…No it wouldn’t be the same but I would like to hear the results.

The Kids Are Alright 1979

Besides the Beatles Anthology, this is my favorite rockumentary for the lack of a better word. Jeff Stein the director did a great job on this film about The Who.

Jeff was a fan of the band and pestered them until they let him do this. He had no prior experience in filmmaking but this was the 1970s and he got the gig. His timing was eerily perfect. He caught the original band at the very end of their tenure with the great Keith Moon.

He searched high and low for clips of the band in earlier years. Stein keeps the appearance mostly in order. There is sadness in this. You see the band through the years from 1964 to 1978… you see all of them gradually age of course but Keith Moon ages faster than any of them. I’ve read where it hit him hard while watching the rough cut right before he died. His drinking and drug taking had taken its toll on him. He saw a young energetic kid that looked like Paul McCartney’s younger brother to a man who was 32 and looked like he was in his 40s.

This may be the first or one of the first video bios on a major rock group. Led Zeppelin had The Song Remains the Same but it focused on one concert in New York… The Beatles had Let It Be but those films didn’t show their history like The Kids Are Alright.

It this film you see a band that is fun… unlike Zeppelin the Who were more open to their audience and didn’t have a dark mystique hanging over them. They would crack jokes from the stage and Moon treated it like a High School talent show until he started to play…then he got serious.

You see film segments that were fun like the video of Happy Jack, the interview on the Russell Harty show, Keith with Ringo, and Keith and Pete sharing a joke that only they could understand. One of my favorite segments is The Who playing Barbara Ann with Keith singing and the band having a good time. They also played I Saw Her Standing There but it didn’t make the film…you can watch it in the outtakes. I can’t imagine Zeppelin doing Barbara Ann and goofing for the camera.

The Who did a couple of live shows for the film besides being interviewed. Stein mostly used old clips but he convinced the band to do a couple of concerts where he could get a definitive version of Won’t Get Fooled Again… which personally I think is the greatest rock song live you will ever hear. You see Keith’s last performance as he is looking pudgy, older, and slower but still pulls it off. Pete wasn’t too thrilled about doing the concerts for the film but it turned out good. They ended up only using a version Won’t Get Fooled Again and Baba O’Riley.

Keith died a few months before The Kids Are Alright debuted. The film showed The Who at it’s best. Kenney Jones from the Faces replaced him but it was never the same. You cannot replace Moon…he was the engine that drove the Who. The only drummer that has worked well with the Who since Keith has been Keith’s Godson Zak Starkey…Ringo’s son.

zak.jpg

I acquired a VHS copy of this in the mid-eighties. It wasn’t a great copy but my friends and I wore it out. One of them worked at a small cable station. The station was in a small county that usually aired farm reports and advertisements. Basically, it was a very small building in the middle of nowhere. All they would do there is broadcast videos.

We had the tape in hand and wanted to see it so we went there one afternoon. He popped it in the VHS player and played it. He had no idea but it was going out live. Near the end of the film, he took a phone call from his boss. I didn’t think anyone ever watched that station…but it turns out they did and they were not fans of The Who. He didn’t get fired but they took his key for the door. It was a big subject the next day at school as some teenagers loved it but their parents didn’t appreciate their videos on farming being interrupted by My Generation and Keith Moon in bondage.

This film covers the original Who and being such a Who fan I’m glad Jeff Stein was so persistent in doing this because many of the tapes he was able to borrow probably would have been erased and used again by the BBC as was their policy.

 

 

My Cross To Bear

I was never a huge Allman Brothers Band fan. I always respected them and I liked their radio songs and heard enough of Duane Allman to know he was a great slide guitar player. I also knew Gregg could make any song his song because of his vocals. I never really wanted to know more about them.

A friend of mine recommended Gregg Allman’s autobiography My Cross To Bear. I have a 72-mile round trip car ride to work every day so I downloaded the audio version. I took a  chance on this one a couple of years ago and I really enjoyed it.  I also downloaded the E-book after I finished it.

The Allman Brothers have always been known as the Godfathers of Southern Rock. I never considered them Southern Rock…like Gregg himself said… they were a blues band with some jazz thrown in and they were from the south.

The audiobook is narrated by Will Patton who does a great job of channeling Gregg.

It is like having Gregg over on your back porch telling you these great stories. He is very down to earth and does not try to make his mistakes sound like someone else’s fault. If you want to know about Duane Allman get this book. He is honest about his brother…warts and all. He doesn’t try to whitewash himself either.

He starts at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction where he was sick, miserable, and bloated because of his drinking problem…from there he starts going back through his personal history and the many ups and downs of the Allman Brothers. He covers the bands that Duane and he formed…The Escorts, The Allman Joys (which I would have kept that name) and Hourglass.

Hourglass made a couple of albums of original material and covers but the record company made them “pop” everything up. They would not let them play with an edge. The Escorts and Allman Joys were cover bands… very good cover bands.

After reading the book I have started to listen to the Allman Brothers more. He gives you some funny stories and you see how close that band was in the early days before Duane and Berry Oakley died. He mentions his struggles with Dickey Betts, alcohol, drugs and wives. You also read about a “foot shooting” party…

He also talks about being on stage noticing Eric Clapton among the audience. That led to the Layla sessions. Eric was a big fan of Duane’s slide playing.

You learn some history about a cover band’s travels, trials, and tribulations in the mid-1960s…youtube has a few crude recordings of the Allman Joys live in the mid-60s. Below is The Allman Joys version of Help. I would have never thought it was Gregg Allman singing.

If you are a music fan you will probably enjoy this book.

 

Help by the Allman Joys in 1966

 

 

 

 

Oddest Concert Pairings

I have always liked odd mixtures. Anything out of the norm and I pay attention. That is why I blog about the past more than today. I liked the 60’s and 70’s era because houses, cars, and music were for the most part unique. I couldn’t tell a Ford from a Chevy today. A lot of new houses look just alike in cloned neighborhoods.

I would have loved to have been at one of these concerts.

Jimi Hendrix / Monkees 1967 – This is number one on my list. Can you imagine the young Monkee fans hearing the sonic volume of Jimi Hendrix? Jimi had to play while a bunch of 12-year-old girls screamed “We want the Monkees” and “We want Davy. ” It was the sixties and Peter Tork said: “It didn’t cross anybody’s mind that it wasn’t gonna fly.”

The Who / Herman Hermits 1967 – Smash your guitars and drums and Hope I die before I get Old and then Mrs Brown You’ve Got A Lovely Daughter?… You can imagine Peter Noone tripping over shards of guitars every night.

Lynyrd Skynyrd / Queen 1974 – This one is a head-scratcher. The theatrical Queen and the southern boys from Florida just don’t seem a great match. Roger Taylor of Queen had some ugly things to say about Lynyrd Skynyrd later on.

Bruce Springsteen / Anne Murray 1974 – This one is baffling. Anne Murray’s managers demanded that Bruce open the show for Anne in NYC! They argued she was more successful and she was…but this was New York and Bruce Springsteen…what a fatal mistake…halfway through Bruce’s set Anne’s managers regretted their decision. Many of the audience had left by the time Anne took the stage.

The Ramones/Toto 1979 – This one doesn’t make sense at all…what promoter thought this through? The laid-back ToTo fans sat through the Ramones but Toto singer Bobby Kimball, came out and apologized to the crowd for the “horrible band” they had to sit through.

Cher/Gregg Allman 1977 – Yes they were married but what an odd concert to go to. You have Gregg who was one of the best blues singers at that time and Cher…who was Cher…Gregg Allman mentions in his book “My Cross to Bear” that the audience was mixed…some with tuxedos and some with denim jackets and backpacks and there were fights at each show on the tour between the two sets of fans.

Gregg Allman

“It was right after that—the tuxedos against the backpacks, because I think the Allman Brothers outnumbered the Sonny and Chers—that Cher came to me, and the poor thing was just crying. I asked her what was wrong, and she told me, “We’ve got to cancel the rest of the tour, because I can’t stand the fighting.” So we ended it right then, which was about halfway through it. We went home the next day, and that was the last time I ever played with her.”

The Ramones / Ted Nugent, Aerosmith 1979 – Bottles and debris were thrown at The Ramones from the crowd as Johnny Ramone was shooting birds at the audience. 

Johnny Ramone about this concert…

“About five or six songs into the set, the whole crowd stood up, and I thought it had started to rain. Dee Dee thought the same thing, but they were throwing stuff at us – sandwiches, bottles, everything. Then, all of a sudden, I broke two strings on my guitar in one strum. I thought it was a sign from God to get off the stage, because I’d rarely break a string, maybe once a year. So I just walked to the front of the stage, stopped playing, and gave the audience the finger – with both hands. I stood there like that, flipping them off, with both hands out, and walked off. The rest of the band kept playing for another ten or fifteen seconds until they’d realized I was walking off, and then they did too. I wasn’t gonna stand there and be booed and have stuff thrown at us without retaliating in some way. We had to come off looking good somehow, and there was no good way to get out of that.”

Johnny Ramone.jpg

 

 

 

 

The Small Faces

The Small Faces were one of those British groups that just never could break America. Some say it was their manager Don Arden who would not budget for touring America but they could have been just a little too British for America…

They were indeed small… all of them were between 5’4 and 5’6″…

They had one of the best if not the best lead singer of that time in Steve Marriott. The guy had a huge voice. They had a talented lineup of Steve Marriott (Guitar and Lead Vocals), Ronnie Lane (Bass), Kenney Jones (drums) and Ian McLagan (Keyboards)… Ian replaced Jimmy Winston.

They were a mod group that was together from 1965 to the beginning of 1969 when Steve left to form Humble Pie.

The had some very good singles like All or Nothing, Itchycoo Park, Lazy Sunday, Tin Soldier, Sha-La-La-La-Lee and more.

The Small Faces also recorded a critically acclaimed concept psychedelic album in 1968 called Ogdens’ Nut Gone Flake with their new record company Immediate Records. They never followed it up and only performed it once live in its entirety on a television show called Colour Me Pop. It spent 6 weeks at number one on the UK Album Charts.

Steve Marriott wanted to do heavier and more sophisticated music and quit at a 1968 New Years Eve gig to join Peter Frampton in Humble Pie.

When Mick Taylor quit the Rolling Stones in 1974 it left a big hole in their sound…  According to Ronnie Wood, Steve Marriott was Keith Richards first choice to replace Taylor…Mick Jagger vetoed the idea. Steve was a great guitar player and writer. It would have been interesting but he could not have sung lead. There is no singer that could take Mick’s place in the Rolling Stones.

The Small Faces were not finished. They replaced Marriott with Rod Stewart and Ron Wood and became the Faces. The Small Faces did reunite in the mid-70s with Ronnie Lane on bass again but he quit and was replaced.

Marriott and Lane did most of the writing. Their songs were clever and catchy. I was a very young in the sixties and don’t actually remember them but Itchycoo Park puts me there. This band should have been bigger than what they were… With the right record label, manager and push, they might have broken through.

The Zombies

Since the first time I heard this band, I loved their sound. I liked their hits but a few years ago I bought their album Odessey and Oracle and was blown away. The Beatles were big fans of them in the sixties.

They formed in 1961 by Rod Argent and Colin Blunstone. The hit big in 1964 with singles She’s Not There that went to #2 in American and the follow up Tell Her No that went to #6 on the charts. After that, they released some more singles but nothing hit.

They went into Abbey Road studio right after The Beatles recorded the Sgt Pepper album. When recording the album they even used The Beatle’s Mellotron they left there. They recorded it in Abbey Road and some in Olympic Studio in London.

By the time the album came out they had already broken up. In 1968 CBS records were not going to release it in America at all but a young  A&R man at the time named Al Kooper who worked for CBS told Clive Davis (President of CBS Records) that there were hit singles on the album. The album was released and the single “Time of Season” went to number 1 on the Cash Box Top 100 and number 3 in US Billboard Hot 100…

The album contains much more than that though. Personally, I think “Care of Cell 44” is one of the best pop songs I’ve heard. It’s as if mid-60s Paul McCartney and Brian Wilson had a baby…and Care Of Cell 44 is it.

A Rose for Emily is another good pop song. “This Will Be Our Year” is another one. This album is one of my favorite pop albums of all time. The songs have well-crafted melodies and the sound is wonderful. Time of Season is a classic and has a mood, unlike any other song.

Colin Blunstone has a unique voice all his own. He did have a few solo hits in the UK charts during the 1970s.

Rod Argent went on to form the band Argent… they had a hit with “Hold Your Head Up” and “God Gave Rock and Roll to You” later covered by Petra and KISS with modified lyrics.

The Zombies regrouped in the 90s and are still touring. Get a good pair of headphones and listen to Care of Cell 44.

From the Al Kooper book, Backstage Passes… Talking about Odessey and Oracle

I made an appointment with Clive Davis and put the album on his desk. “I really think we should purchase the master rights to this album for the U.S.,” I aggressively suggested. He took one look at the cover and replied, “We already own this album. I was just about to sign off on our option to release it domestically.”
Now, it got good to me—
“I think that would be a huge mistake Clive. Why there’s at least two hit singles here.” He told me he would sleep on it and thanked me for bringing it to his attention. Two weeks later I got an interoffice memo saying they were gonna put it out, with instructions to rewrite the liner notes and pick a single. Cautiously, Clive released it on a little subsidiary label CBS had called Date Records, in case I turned out to be wrong. But my lucky streak was goin’ strong and that is how the single “Time of the Season” by The Zombies came to be number one. The album Oddesey [sic] and Oracle had been out quite awhile in England. (In fact, the band had already broken up and metamorphosed into a new band called Argent that CBS had signed before “Time” was released.) A buncha Zombies crossed the ocean to take photos and get gold records. No one at CBS thanked me for this; I received no gold record or cash recompense. But The Zombies, who knew what really happened, made sure to come to my office and thank me profusely. That was worth it all to me at that time.