BBC Four showed a Stax concert recorded in Norway in 1967. It was absolutely superb. YouTube as ever comes to the rescue. These are cut in some odd places, halfway through songs, but it has to be watched. Check out Steve Cropper’s face during the first Otis number. Sheer joy!
One of the best thing about the mp3 blog world is how many tunes turn up that would just be forgotten. All those records that people had that were simply never hits. And I’m not talking about wilfully obscure indie bands either, but those artists releasing records on big labels, getting lots of radio play back in the day. And then disappearing without a trace. I always think it’s a crime that some of the records I loved, that formed a major soundtrack to my life were never really heard by anybody else.
Of course sometimes there’s a reason for that. Going back and listening to songs years after the fact leaves you with the impression that you had really bad taste.
Hopefully not with these two anyway…
First up is quite possibly the worst band name ever – Bonk. Bonk was a gent called Barry Flynn, who also released material under the name ‘The Chant Of Barry Flynn’. “The Smile And The Kiss” was a single 82/83. It’s a nice piece of typical 80s pop, landing somewhere between The Human League and Motown. It was all over the radio at the time, but probably stalled somewhere around number 67. It must have made it into the Top 75 because my local record shop would only order songs that did.
It’s place in history was slightly secured by one fact though: the brilliant female backing vocals that made me go a little weak at the knees at the time were by one Toni Halliday, later of Curve, who was also on the cover of the single.
Second up today is a single I was given. The band are called Still Life and the song is called Away From This Town. Again this got a lot of airplay and the band supported Culture Club on tour and that’s about all I know. I got this in a bundle of 7″ singles I got when I visited Capital Radio after winning a contest in October 1982. I wrote the last chapter to a story and my prize was to read it out on air. It was all pretty exciting, and strangely dull all at once, being at a radio station. For starters, most of the rooms were no bigger than cupboards, with lots of equipment in them. I did get to meet Mick Brown the DJ, later of Pat and Mick infamy. See, exciting AND dull. All at once!
I got home with this pretty large bundle of 7″s, which later on I realised were just unwanted promos. And most of them were pretty crap to be honest. This one though just stood out, and for me, like the Bonk tune, I can’t really work out why it wasn’t a hit. After I heard it I played it to people and off they went and bought it themselves. Obviously I didn’t play it to enough people!
Jon Newby, the singer from Still Life has a Myspace page with a nice acoustic version of this:
Rub A Dub A Weh Them Want by Tapper Zukie, a glorious slice of dub, with beautiful horns and a gorgeous bassline, in perfect timing with the sunshine on Seven Sisters Road. And here as well is the original tune produced by Tapper and sung by the wonderful Horace Andy, Natty Dread A Weh She Wants.
I can’t think of a more perfect sound for Summer.
There are some songs that you feel you know inside out. They are the definitive version. Dionne Warwick’s version of the Bacharach And David classic ‘Walk On By’ is one of those tunes. Or it was until I heard another version.
Isaac Hayes had been one half of a successful songwriting team for Stax with David Porter, writing songs such as Soul Man and Hold On I’m Coming for Sam And Dave. In 1967 he’d released his first album ‘Presenting Isaac Hayes’ which pretty much flopped. A return to writing and producing was on the cards. Then following the death of it’s major star Otis Redding and the sale of it’s back catalogue to Atlantic Records, Stax needed records and fast. Isaac Hayes was one of the people asked to produce an album. Having seen his first album flop Hayes wanted complete control over his next album or he wouldn’t do it.
Hot Buttered Soul was the result. And it opened with a 12 minute version of ‘Walk On By’ which is a monster orchestral funk jam of completely epic proportions. If you feel the song is overly familiar to you then listen to this. It completely tears up the blueprint and turns it into something else entirely.
I must have heard this song a million times, hey I’ve heard Isaac’s version countless times too. But it still surprises me.
Remember: turn it up!
Adam posted both of the original versions of these two tracks earlier this week at Pretending Life Is Like A Song (yes, he’s back…check out my bloglists for the link). And while I love the originals I’ve been listening to a couple of live versions far more than they.
So here’s Mr Roddy Frame with some songs recorded live at Ronnie Scott’s back in 2005.
How Men Are, with it’s segue into People Get Ready in the middle and an absolutely stunning Good Morning Britain. Who knew it could be so gorgeous and glittering?
(I’ve mentioned on more than one occasion the presence of Spandau Ballet’s Kemp brothers in the old boys list from my old school. But possibly more interesting, and certainly in connection with this post, was the attendance of one Ronnie Scott…)
The autumn before he released the first single with The Truth Dennis Greaves had still been in his old band Nine Below Zero, who landed somewhere between the bluesy pub rock of Dr Feelgood and the punky mod pop of old Mr Weller and The Jam. After the demise of The Truth, following an awful American style rock album which actually saw some success in the States, Dennis reformed Nine Below Zero and they’re still going strong now.
Back to autumn 1982 and a new series started on BBC2 called The Young Ones. Yes, that series. Halfway through each episode a band played a song live. Nine Below Zero were the first band on and played this:
My first gig I paid to go to: The Truth featuring Dennis Greaves (Nine Below Zero). Still to this day one of the best live bands I’ve ever seen. Here’s a couple of tracks: their first single Confusion (Hits Us Every Time) and a live track Just Can’t Seem To Stop which was always the last song they played at gigs.
I’m not sure where it was I saw them: possibly the Electric Ballroom sometime in 1984. I just remember being at the front and being lifted up above the crowd during one song and finding myself carried over their heads to be deposited at the side of the venue!
And: “we are the mods, we are the mods, we are, we are the mods”
Ah the perils of three pints of lager in plastic glasses at the age of 15….