The Tremeloes – What a State I’m In

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The Tremeloes

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Listen – The Tremeloes – What a State I’m In – MP3

Greetings all.
I hope all is well in your part of the world.
The track I bring you today was a very pleasant – and relatively recent – discovery.
Earlier this year I was out doing some vinyl excavations in a previously untapped (at least by me) source. I ended up picking up a grip of ‘now sound’ and jazz LPs, and, as illustrated by today’s selection, some very nice 60’s rock and pop.
One of those LPs was the Tremeloes’ 1967 LP “Here Comes My Baby”. Known to me via their Beat Boom days as Brian Poole and the Tremeloes (Poole departed in 1966), I picked up the LP on the strength of the title cut, a US Top 20 hit in 1967.
Naturally – as is ALWAYS the case – I placed the LP on the turntable and started skipping around the disc checking out the vast majority of tracks that were previously unknown to me. Good thing too, because if I hadn’t I’d never have come upon the fuzzy, freakbeat delight I bring you today.
The Tremeloes were formed in the late 50’s in Dagenham, Essex (in the UK, natch) and were ironically the band that Decca DID sign, when they passed on a little pop group from Liverpool named the Beatles. Though they had a string of hits in the UK, it wasn’t until Poole hit the road that they started to chart across the pond with tunes like ‘Silence Is Golden’ (#1 UK, Top 10 US) and the aforementioned ‘Here Comes My Baby’ both in 1967.
‘What a Shape I’m In’ is a fantastic example of that gray area – thus freakbeat – between the Beat era and the onset of full blown psychedelia. There’s punch, melody, fuzzed out guitar and vaguely trippy touches, all adding up to a potent mix. The tune opens with an acoustic guitar riff, followed soon by thumping bass and electric guitar. It’s isn’t long before the fuzz guitar starts building in the background, becoming more and more prominent until it soars in a solo that wouldn’t be out of place on a garage punk record.
I’ve seen a reference that suggests that ‘What a Shape I’m In’ was released as the b-side of the Tremeloes cover of ‘Good Day Sunshine’, though I don’t know if that 45 was released in the US.
Either way it’s quite groovy and something of a lost classic.
I hope you dig it.
I’ll see you on Monday.
Peace
Larry

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PS Make sure to stop by Funky16Corners for some instrumental funk.

PSS Stop by Paperback Rider too…

Love- The Red Telephone

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Arthur Lee

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Listen – Love – The Red Telephone – MP3

Greetings all.
I hope everyone dug last weeks edition of the Iron Leg Digital Trip. I’ll be posting the second chapter in that series (NYC) in the coming weeks, with many more (US, UK, World) to follow.
The other day I happened upon a mention that one of my all time favorite albums, Love’s ‘Forever Changes’ was being reissued yet again, this time with a remix of the album as well as other unreleased material.
No matter that this should only be of interest to the most die-hard Love completists (and even then probably overkill for most, myself included), if you don’t have any version of the album it is definitely worth picking it up so that you can experience one of the greatest albums of the 60’s (or for that matter the latter half of the 20th century).
Two years ago, upon the unfortunate death of the great Arthur Lee, I was invited to write an appreciation for the mod site Uppers. Today, along with my favorite cut from that album ‘The Red Telephone’, I’m reprinting that piece, mainly because I can’t imagine I have anything to say about Lee, Love or ‘Forever Changes’ that I didn’t already say in that piece.
I hope you dig it, and I’ll be back later in the week.

Forever Changed – Arthur Lee 1945 –

.”Through a crack of light I was unable to find my way
Trapped inside a night but I’m a day”

- Love ‘7 and 7 Is’

I can’t remember exactly when I first heard the music of Arthur Lee and Love. I certainly knew who they were at a fairly early age. Growing up in the 70’s, obsessed with rock’n’roll, and reading mags like Rolling Stone and Creem (when they still meant something), it was hard to miss the almost universal rock crit reverence for the LP ‘Forever Changes’.

The interval between when I first heard about that album, and actually heard it (and grew to love it like almost no other record) is probably something like 10 years. The first Love record I actually owned was a Rhino ‘Best Of’ that came out in 1980. Though that record contained the song that would become my favorite – ‘Your Mind and We Belong Together’ – the tune that blew my mind wide open from the first listen was ‘7 and 7 Is’.

Though Love had (and has) been unfairly lumped in with the Nuggets crowd, due to the ‘one hit wonder’-ism of ‘My Little Red Book’, their punkiest record met, and transcended the greasy teenage swagger of 6T’s punk in a way that even today is hard to comprehend.

Packing more energy into its two minutes and nineteen seconds than some bands are able to produce in entire careers, ‘7 and 7 Is’ is as raw and savage a statement (if perhaps lyrically obtuse in a way not at all atypical for its time) as rock music has ever seen, and ending it with a sound-effects record explosion – a notion that might have damned a lesser record to an oblivion of novelty – seems today not only acceptable, but an absolutely necessary bit of punctuation.

Needless to say, that album quickly fell into heavy rotation, and it wasn’t long before I sought out, and absorbed the entire Love catalogue.

Having seen Arthur Lee perform live in the early 90’s, and followed his descent into incarceration, and eventually his brief resurrection – culminating in the live performances of ‘Forever Changes’ in the UK a few years ago, it’s safe to say that he remained one of rocks great enigmas until his recent, untimely death. He had a long history of what can charitably be described as unpredictable behavior, and the diminished nature of his later recordings, in concert with his actions have the unpleasant effect of clouding what should be a mighty legacy.

Love rose to artistic prominence – if not a commensurate financial
success – with the cream of the Sunset Strip bands in the mid 60’s.
Alongside the Byrds, the Buffalo Springfield (a similarly deep, and misunderstood band) and the Doors, they made albums that started out rooted firmly in the general folk rock cum garage punk vibe of the day, and grew into major artistic statements that captured the darkening spirit of the late 60’s like none other.

This is not to say that the roots of ‘Forever Changes’ were not apparent on their first LP ‘Love’. Next to patented pageboy jangle like ‘Can’t Explain’ and ‘No Matter What You Do’, and raw fuzz like ‘My Flash On You’, lay sublime, poetic detours like ‘Softly To Me’, ‘Colored Balls Falling’ and ‘Mushroom Clouds’ (introducing the apocalyptic imagery that would return in ‘The Red Telephone’). While ‘Love’ may have lacked the conceptual breadth that the band would reach on ‘Forever Changes’,it’s still a hell of a debut album, and can stand proudly beside just about any of its contemporaries.

When their second LP ‘Da Capo’ came out in late 1966, Love had – despite the execrable side-long track ‘Revelations’ (which revealed nothing but their self-indulgence) – reached a plateau of artistic achievement and experimentation that set them apart from their peers. The post-modern bizarro waltz of ‘Stephanie Knows Who’ (later covered by the Move), the showtune candy floss of ‘Orange Skies’ and the timely psyche-pop of ‘She Comes In Colors’ all take divergent paths, yet are clearly the work of the same twisted brain trust.

It’s important to note that despite the fact that Arthur Lee was
clearly the leader of the band, and its dominant composer, the music of Love would not have reached the pinnacles that it did without the contributions of Bryan Maclean, the mellow, wistful Yin to Lee’s dark, introspective Yang. While it’s fortunate for everyone involved (especially the listeners) that Maclean never became the dominant creative force in Love, he was still an indispensable part of their formula (as it was).

For me, the defining moment of ‘Da Capo’ was ‘The Castle’. In many ways it’s the dark heart of the album. Built on a rambling, folky acoustic guitar line, soon joined by a rumbling bass and the obligatory baroque harpsichord, its lyrics are spare and impenetrable, but like many Love songs, ‘The Castle’ is ultimately less about words and more about the mood. Whether or not the few words convey it, ‘The Castle’ is a study in desolation. Though the flamenco-esque breakdown toward the end verges on the pretentious, the shambling dissipation that closes out the song, defuses that quickly.

When Love entered the studio in 1967 to record the album that would become ‘Forever Changes’, no one, Lee and Maclean included could have known that it would turn into something of a touchstone for a coming generation of musicians, writers and listeners. From the acoustic stream running underneath the entire record, Lee, producer Bruce Botnick and arranger David Angel created one of the few utterly perfect albums ever recorded, and one that transcends its era completely.

There’s no doubt that ‘Forever Changes’ is psychedelic, but not in any normal way. It is absolutely free of the kind of dated clichés that mark so much of what is considered “traditionally” psychedelic, redolent more of sophisticated pop than acid-drenched whimsy (or psychosis). All of the hallmarks of the Love sound that had been scattered here and there on their two previous albums suddenly converge in unexpected ways. The album is deeply sophisticated, yet never slick, personal to the point of confessional yet often inscrutable.

The songs are all amazing in their own right, yet run together so seamlessly as to make listening to them individually seem like a kind of betrayal. I don’t recall ever hearing Lee or Maclean say that ‘Forever Changes’ was assembled as a traditional “concept” album, yet when you listen to the album it seems impossible that it wasn’t. This is due in large part to the fact that it captures the zeitgeist of that era so well. Forever Changes’ is “about” California in the late 60’s the way Nathaniel West’s ‘Day of the Locust’ was “about” that same place almost 30 years earlier, in that they both use the experiences of that time and place to say something larger about life.

It is within the confines of ‘Forever Changes’ that Lee, a self-proclaimed “black hippy” addresses broad themes of race, the generation gap, the coming nuclear apocalypse, as well as micro-issues like daily life on the Sunset Strip and in the nearby canyons.

If you look at the pieces that Bryan Maclean contributed to ‘Forever Changes’, ‘Alone Again Or’, ‘Andmoreagain’ and ‘Old Man’, they – all ostensibly love (and Love) songs – lack the kind of abstraction, irony and even anger that can be found in the songs composed by Lee. That they are also three of the albums finest songs says a lot about the ways Lee and Maclean’s approaches complemented each other, and despite coming from two different points of view, are bound together in the larger “band” identity, as it was (the group Love was by this point little more than Lee and Maclean, the other members were not initially involved in its recording, having been supplanted by studio players like Hal Blaine and Carol Kaye).

The songs that Lee brought to ‘Forever Changes’ are the finest he would ever write. I have read that when Lee was working on ‘Forever Changes’ he was convinced that he was not long for this world, and started working accordingly, as if the album would be his last.

While Lee didn’t abandon love/relationship themes in his songs, he cast them as part of the world at large, as if he realized that all of the romance meant little when held up to the grim realities of the world of 1967.

The 1960’s is an era that is idealized both by those that experienced it first-hand, and those that wish they had. The songs that Arthur Lee wrote for ‘Forever Changes’ are a bracing antidote to that nostalgia.
They take into account the fact that race relations had barely been addressed, let alone resolved. He took the rose-colored hippy outlook and exposed it to the harsh light of day, describing the world that so many of his contemporaries were making believe didn’t exist. This is one of the reasons that ‘Forever Changes’ seems so fresh today, continuing to work its magic on new generations of listeners all the time.

Arguably, what Lee was presenting was partly the dark reality of psychedelic experience, in which the “traveler” comes to the end of the journey, not dancing with multi-colored gnomes in a field of licorice, but instead aware of their place in the distressed continuum that is the modern world, with all of the dangers displayed side by side with the joys, removed completely from self-delusion. While those that have been there, and are willing to make an honest appraisal of the situation will tell you that it was a journey worth taking, they’ll also say that it was not an easy one to take. When,in ‘The Red Telephone’ he sings “Sometimes my life is so eerie…” it is a moment of stark introspection that the boatload of singer/songwriter navel gazing in the coming years would never be able to match.

That may be the lesson inside of ‘Forever Changes’, but each listener has to make that determination for themselves. I can’t say that everyone who has heard the album has embraced it so wholeheartedly, because like Lee himself it may not be everyone’s cup of tea. Many drawn in by its often gentle beauty may not be prepared for the sharp edges underneath, but those that have absorbed ‘Forever Changes’ in all its facets swear by the album. It is one of the few records that I own – along with Miles Davis’ ‘Kind of Blue’ and John Coltrane’s ‘Love Supreme’ that I can honestly say I have listened to hundreds of times.

‘Forever Changes’ is Arthur Lee’s legacy, and in it he will find his immortality. Despite the fact that following ‘Forever Changes’ the band, and some will say Lee himself splintered forever. Though in the few albums that came after 1968 there are occasional flashes of greatness, no honest observer can say that they are anything but minor aftershocks.

Maybe Lee was right in that an end was coming, not to his life, but to the idea of Love, and his ability to capture the pieces of truth he saw around him and translate them into song. If you listen to the recordings, or watch the video of the 2003 recreations of ‘Forever Changes’, while they put the 30 year creative drought that preceded them into stark perspective, they also show that Lee remained a dynamic performer who was still able to deliver his songs with conviction. It’s impossible to say whether Lee would have ever again produced anything like ‘Forever Changes’, but in the end, he didn’t have to.
Peace
Larry

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PS Make sure to stop by Funky16Corners where you’ll be rediredted to Fleamarket Funk for my contribution to their guest mix series.

Paperback Rider has been updated as well

Iron Leg Digital Trip #11 – Gravel Vol 1 – Riot On the Garden State Parkway

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Mod Fun on stage at The Dive (1986)
Photo by Andy Peters

DOH!!! While a-googling to do some fact checking, I discovered that my old pal Blair Buscareno put together podcasts, using the ‘Highs In the Mid 80’s’ title (also inspired by a mid-80’s collection of 60’s punk comps) a few years back over at GaragePunk.com. There are definitely some intersections in the track selections, but Blair also has a number of cuts that I didn’t use here. He also did a second volume focusing on the Long Island scene. As a result I have retitled this series (also punning in the same direction) as Gravel, which is how they will proceed henceforth. I don’t know that there has ever been anyone as dedicated to following the garage punk scene (then or now) than Blair. My apologies to him.

Listen/Download 27MB Mixed MP3 – MP3

Download 22MB ZIP File-

Playlist

Smithereens – Just Got Me a Girl (Dirt)
Secret Syde – A Hole In My Pocket (Mutha)
Mod Fun – I Am With You (New)
Lord John – Westminiature Abbey (Bomp)
Phantom Five – She’s Not (Making Tyme)
Laughing Soup Dish – Teenage Lima Bean (Voxx)
Insomniacs – My Favorite Story (Umbrella)
 

 

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The scene of the crime…(ignore the little green arrow)

Greetings all.
The podcast I bring you today – Iron Leg Digital Trip #11 – GRAVEL Vol 1 – Riot On the Garden State Parkway (longest podcast title EVER!)- has been in the works, at least theoretically since I started this blog almost a year ago.
If you’re a regular reader, you’ve probably seen me mention the fact (repeatedly) that I was a part of the garage/mod revival back in the 80’s as fan, fanzine writer and musician.
It was a tremendously exciting time as this was a worldwide phenomenon with big scenes on both coasts (and a lot of places in between) and all over the rest of the world.
Though the center of most of my activities was New York City – home of the venues where these bands could be heard (and in a pre-internet age where the records and fanzines could be purchased), or, to carry a phrase from 1966 to 1986, it was ‘where the action was’.
Interestingly enough, there was plenty of action right outside my front door.
My first inkling that anything of this kind was going on was in the pages of a NJ rock paper called the Aquarian Weekly. In addition to page after page of ads for live music venues (something you just don’t see anymore) there were articles and record reviews. It was in the Aquarian that I first read the names of the Chocolate Watchband and the Standells. I don’t remember which of the revival bands I heard about first, but in a way I was already familiar with the sounds.
If you had your ear to college (or sometimes commercial) radio in the late 70’s and early 80’s the sounds of power pop and new wave were inescapable. Within this scene, prior to the actually resurrection of pageboy haircuts and Beatle boots, there was a fair amount of 60’s revivalism going on already with many of what we knew as “skinny tie” bands (like the Shoes and the Romantics) mining the sounds of the Beatles, Kinks, Byrds and their ilk. There were even – on occasion – forays into garage rock with tunes like ‘You Belong to Me’ by Elvis Costello & the Attractions and the cover of the Standells ‘Dirty Water’ by the Inmates. One might even work bands like Cheap Trick, or any of the Chiswick label bands like Count Bishops and Little Bob Story into this continuum.
Either way, it was a few years on before these somewhat more commercial sounds gave way (at least in the underground) to cellar dwelling record collector types brandishing vintage guitars, combo organs and snotty attitudes in small clubs in Los Angeles, New York, London and elsewhere, attempting to recreate the ‘Riot On the Sunset Strip’ aesthetic 20 years on.
My initial connection to this scene was via my fanzine Incognito which, in true 80’s DIY fashion I wrote, pasted together and copied myself and consigned to local record shops. I put the first issue together in 1984, and it wasn’t too far into this enterprise that I received a letter from a cat (from one town over) named Bill Luther, who had picked up my zine in a New Brunswick record store and wanted to let me know that he was into the old sounds as well.
It was with Bill that I first set foot in what would become something of a home away from home, that being the Dive in New York City. It was in that tiny club that I had my first experience with hardcore revivalists, working “the look” like nobody’s business.
At first, seeing guys and girls who looked like they stepped out of 1966 was jarring. I had no idea that anyone had been taking 60’s devotion to such extremes, especially considering that my fashion sense was at the time limited to jeans and cutoff sweatshirts. I think it was Bill who said that the first time he saw me he thought I was a biker. Sadly, due in large part to my inability to fit into fashionable clothes (even my size 15 feet were far too big for Beatle boots) I never really became much of a retro fashion plate.
Before long I became a regular habitué of the NYC scene, mixing with like minds (hailing from the garage and mod scenes) and immersing myself in the world of reissue compilations and fanzines from around the world (often thanks to the intersession of scene king, zine editor and Venus Records clerk Ron Rimsite who would, in his inimitable North Jersey whine would direct us to the more interesting new releases).
It was during the next few years that I began to discover that there were in the area many like-minded folk with similar interests and we had a scene of our own right here in Central New Jersey.
It pays to take a minute to parse the meaning of the word “scene” as it’s used in this context. The music world tends to assign the sobriquet ‘scene’ geographically to regional gatherings of like minds around live venues (first and foremost), record stores, zines and most importantly, fans. Though New York City was the de facto garage/mod scene, there’s much to be said for our little enclave in Monmouth County. Though there were no live venues dedicated to our sounds, nor were there any genre specific record stores, we did have a scene of sorts, created out of a web of social interaction (many a garage/mod house party and barbecue were had), zines and shared musical interests. These were the days of mix tape trading, and there was among our crowd a brisk traffic in C-90s in which we were constantly sharing sounds and turning each other on to new stuff all the time.
The first example tuning into these sound locally actually predates my involvement in the scene, with my discovery (via a high school friend) of the Smithereens. This was years before they went on to international fame, and we’d go to see them rock out on the basement stage of the Court Tavern in New Brunswick, NJ (as close as a home base as they ever had). The Smithereens were kind of a missing link between the new wave/power pop vibe and the purist/revivalist scene, writing their own powerful, Beatle-y originals and mixing in a wide variety of 60’s covers by the Kinks, Pretty Things and Count Five among others. Many a night was spent sweating in that tightly packed club, guzzling cheap beer and after the show heading across the Raritan River for the finest hamburgers in all of New Jersey at the White Rose System.
The Smithereens had been together since at least 1980 and had already recorded two EPs – ‘Girls About Town’ and ‘Beauty and Sadness’. Though they never forced themselves into a retro look, the sound was definitely there. They were a fantastic band and hugely inspirational to my friends and I.
The mix opens with a track that appeared on the ‘Girls About Town’ EP (though since I’ve never been able to grab a copy of that rare disc (oddly enough I do have the picture sleeve), I took the tune from a compilation released by local punk bar the Dirt Club). ‘Just Got Me a Girl’ is a great example of the Smithereens sound with chiming guitars, tight harmonies and a sound that is clearly 60’s influenced. As I said before they had one foot firmly in the power pop sound (alongside other Jersey bands like the Colors) and another edging toward the new retro vibe. It’s important to mention that the Smithereens were never really embraced by the garage/mod scene, but they were for a time far more commercially successful that any of the scene-connected bands (other than maybe the Bangles) and never really traveled in those circles.
The first really local (i.e. within my home base of Monmouth County) band I ever heard with an ear turned to the 60’s was the Secret Syde. They recorded an album for local punk/metal label Mutha records (they were really the only band of their kind on the label). In the early 80’s I saw them play a few times at the local punk mecca the Brighton Bar in Long Branch, as well as a couple of very strange opening slots for Black Flag (at a skating rink no less) and the Joe Perry Project (at Monmouth College). Even then there was a kinship of sorts as the band began to recognize my friends and me as kindred spirits. The tune ‘A Hole Where My Pocket Should Be’ from their 1983 debut is a killer bit of psyche punk. The rest of the LP is excellent and ought to be reissued by someone (along with their second, LP which never saw the light of day).
As I became involved in the Dive scene, the most important New Jersey band (and in my opinion the best New York area band at the time) was Mod Fun. Hailing from the North Jersey suburb of Maywood and led by singer/guitarist Mick London (who had his own zine), Mod Fun worked a dynamic combination of mod, psyche and garage wrapped in a pop art sensibility. Their first 45 was one of the earliest signs for me that something interesting was going on. The a-side of that record, ‘I Am With You’ is still – in my opinion – the finest example of a band fully immersed in the retro scene yet able to transcend the revivalist label. Mod Fun was a formidable live band and managed to tour the country in a van at least once, releasing a number of excellent 45s, EPs and an LP for Midnight Records. It was via their set lists that I was first exposed to tunes by the Artwoods and the Syn. Mick London (often with Mod Fun bassist Bob Strete) went on to form Paint Box and Crocodile Shop, reforming Mod Fun (with Strete and drummer Chris Collins) in the last few years.

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Lord John onstage at Maxwells, Hoboken (1986)
(L-R Tom Gibson, Ray Normandy)
Photo by Andy Peters

Lord John was another Monmouth County band. I first saw them put on a smoking show at a long defunct New Brunswick club called Patrix (that if memory serves was actually inside an old house). Lord John played psychedelic punk rock that took the current sounds of the UK underground and mixed it with the sounds of the 60’s. ‘West Miniature Abbey’ is a track from their 1985 Bomp LP ‘Six Days of Sound’. Guitarists Tom Gibson and Ray Normandy went on to record a number of self-released tapes as the Narc Twins.

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The Phantom Five, on the tracks in Helmetta, NJ (1986)
(L-R Chris Grogan, Vince Grogan, Larry Grogan, Bill Luther)
Photo by Rudie Rosinski

Not long after my introduction to the NYC garage/mod scene Bill Luther (who had his own zine, Smashed Blocked), my brothers Christopher, Vincent and I formed our own band the Phantom Five. Our sound was a sometimes schizo mix of garage punk, UK Beat and folk rock. We recorded our 1986 EP ‘Great Jones Street’ in our parents’ garage (natch), under the guidance of Mod Fun’s Mick London, who released the EP on his Making Tyme label. Of the four tunes on the record (three originals and a psyched up cover of the Byrds ‘So You Want To Be a Rock and Roll Star’), ‘She’s Not’ was by far the garag-iest, filled with fuzz and snot. The picture on the sleeve of the record (and the photo above) was taken by Rudie Rosinski, a friend of Bill’s who had his own fanzine (Stranger Than Fiction) for a time before taking his own life in 1986. Oddly enough the Phantom Five played the majority of its gigs out of town, often in New York City or at clubs and colleges elsewhere in New York, Pennsylvania and Virginia. We kept it going (recording a second, unreleased EP) until 1988.
Another Monmouth County band – the only one to have a record released by the storied Voxx label – was the Laughing Soup Dish. Led by Marc Saxton, the LSD had a psychedelic garage sound, which in a live setting was redolent of the Texas psyche of the 13th Floor Elevators and the Red Crayola. ‘Teenage Lima Bean’ was one side of their Voxx 45.

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Making the scene at the Bike Club, Lincroft, NJ (1986)
(L-R Your host, Martin, unkown, Bandaido (in red beret), Liz Waters (Partially obscured), Rudie Rosinski, Ted Essex)
Photo by Bill Luther (I Think)

I have to take a moment to mention an interesting part of our own little scene, the Bike Club in Lincroft. Actually the basement of the suburban house of scenester Martin Splichol, the Bike Club was a pop art experiment that hosted shows by the Phantom Five, Mick London (performing solo with a multimedia slide show) and other local bands, even seeing visits from NYC fans (some of whom are in the picture above). The fact that the Monmouth County bands didn’t really have a commercial club to call home, the Bike Club was a brief but important base of operations.
Though I can’t say for sure if the last band in this mix played at the Bike Club (they may have in their earlier guise as the Tea Club), I can say with certainty that its members were definitely there. The Insomniacs didn’t release their first record until 1990/91, but the members of the band, brothers David and Robert Wojciechowski (bass and guitar) and drummer Mike Sinocchi were longtime members of the scene in NJ and NYC. The brother’s older sibling Michael was the high school friend with whom I first saw the Smithereens, and I had known the brothers since they were in middle school.
In much the same way that the Smithereens were a transitional band, bridging power pop and the early days of the revivalist scene, the Insomniacs came along as the scene itself became more diffuse, carrying on the sound long after the costume party had ended. They’re still around today and have released numerous excellent records on a variety of labels. ‘My Favorite Story’ (which happens to be my favorite Insomniacs tune) appeared on their first EP on their own Umbrella label.
Interestingly enough, of the seven bands represented in the mix, three of them are still (in one form or another) going concerns, with the Smithereens closing in on the end of their third decade together. Of the other folks mentioned, Bill Luther has for many years been a highly respected collector and DJ as well as writing for the mod site Uppers. My brothers both continued to play after the demise of the Phantom Five, Vincent in Gigantic and later in Buzzed Meg (with Jim and Dennis of the Smithereens) and Christopher in the Grievous Angels and on his own. I am as you know all about the interwebs these days.
I can’t tell you what happened to some of the other local bands, other than I lost touch with many of the members after the original groups broke up and they drifted off into other projects, long lost in the recesses of my memory.
Special mention should also go out to Andy Peters who documented many of the bands and fans on the scene with his camera. He took the pictures of Lord John and Mod Fun, and I’ll be including some of his other picture in the future volumes of this series.
Stay tuned in the coming weeks for Highs In the Mid 80’s podcasts devoted to the New York City bands, bands from elsewhere in the US as well as international bands.
As always, I hope you dig the sounds, and I’ll see you soon.

Peace
Larry

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PS Head over to Funky16Corners for a podcast of Eddie Bo’s work as composer/producer and arranger.

PSS Paperback Rider has been updated with a review that ought to be of interest to Iron Leg readers

Kaleidoscope (UK) – Holidaymaker

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Kaleidoscope

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Listen – Kaleidoscope (UK) – Holidaymaker – MP3

Greetings all.
I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to squeeze in an end of the week post, but I hunkered down and got it together.
The tune we bring you today is the flip side of a number featured in Iron Leg Digital Trip #9 – Dream Machine, that being ‘Flight From Ashiya’ by the Kaleidoscope. That b-side, monument to the greatness of what we record collector types refer two as a “two-sider”, is the stellar ‘Holidaymaker’.
The Kaleidoscope (the UK band, not the very interesting California group of the same time period) started out in 1964 as the Sidekicks, changing their name when they were signed to Fontana in 1967.
The group recorded a number of excellent 45s and two rare LPs (‘Tangerine Dream’, ‘Faintly Blowing’) before morphing once again into Fairfield Parlour in 1969.
The ‘Flight From Ashiya’ / ‘Holidaymaker’ 45 their first, was released in September of 1967. Where ‘Flight…’ is an acid drenched fever dream, ‘Holidaymaker’ has a more psyche-pop sound featuring some seemingly uncharacteristic, yet oddly fitting horns and merrymakers-at-the-beach sound effects.
I hope you dig it, and I’ll be back on Monday with another edition of the Iron Leg Digital Trip Podcast (which I think you’ll find very interesting).
Peace
Larry

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PS Make sure to stop by Funky16Corners for a bit of funky politics

Paul Revere & the Raiders – The Great Airplane Strike

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Paul Revere & the Raiders

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Listen – Paul Revere & the Raiders – The Great Airplane Strike – MP3

Greetings all.
I hope the new week finds you well.
I was originally planning a new podcast for this Monday, but life kid of got in the way,and though I have the tracks recorded I was unable to sit down and get the mix together, so I’ll be going with a couple of single tracks this week and letting the mix drop at the beginning of next week.
In a brief aside, if you get chance scroll back a bit to the post I did about the Knight Riders garage classic ‘I’. In the few months since I wrote the piece – which is based around the fact that other than their name, the band’s identity was largely lost to time – friends, family, and eventually members of the band themselves have stopped by to comment. Something like this happened (to a lesser degree) a few years back at the old Blogger version of the Funky16Corners blog. I always dig when someone related to the track at hand – especially the recording artist- takes time to comment, but in this case I’m especially pleased since I was originally unable to discover much about the band, and the comments on the post have included info on the band members and reminiscences of their live performances. Very cool.
Today’s selection is a track by a band that is anything but anonymous, or at least was during their heyday when they were one of the most popular rock bands in America.
I was first exposed to Paul Revere & the Raiders via their 1971 hit ‘Indian Reservation’, which was all but inescapable if you were a kid with his ear glued to a transistor radio.
It would be a few more years before I started to pick up on their first wave of hits via oldies radio, and many more before I actually bought my first Raiders collection and really started digging them.
During the garage/mod days of the mid-80’s tracks like ‘Good Thing’, ‘Hungry’ and ‘Kicks’ were always in heavy rotation. Their appeal was obvious in that when the Raiders were at their peak they combined a hard, garagey edge with a solid pop sensibility.
Initially I just assumed that they were, like the other bands that my pals and I were rediscovering, like the Standells and the Chocolate Watchband, a long lost Sixties gem with a couple of big hits in heavy oldies rotation.
I had no idea.
Over the next few years, exposed as I was to the work of other collectors and rich storehouse of bootleg video, I discovered that Paul Revere and the Raiders were no one or two hit wonder act, but were at the height of their success hugely popular with a string of Top 40 hits that ran pretty steadily from 1965 to 1971. They were – especially lead singer Mark Lindsay – teen idols and a regular part of the Tiger Beat world that would in a few years embrace the likes of pop lightweights like Bobby Sherman and David Cassidy. For a while they were also TV stars, regulars (and for a period hosting) on Dick Clark’s ‘Where the Action Is’.
Unfortunately, as this more comprehensive picture of the Raiders came into focus their image, with the pseudo-Revolutionary War costumes and popstar clowning and their status as the idols of a nation of 13 year old girls started to take away some of the coolness of their music, and explained a lot about why they didn’t get much respect as a “serious” band.
This was of course ridiculous, because the more I listen to their music – especially after finding some of their original albums – the more I come to the conclusion that Paul Revere and the Raiders were an exceptionally capable rock band, and that their fusion of garage fuzz and pop hooks (aided by Lindsay’s excellent vocals) was some of the best music of the era.
Their place in history is largely problematic because they persisted in their commercial tomfoolery well past the point where rockers started to take themselves seriously (even the Monkees got to flex their progressive/artistic side) and as a result had just about zero underground cred in an era where almost nothing was more important for a rock band. No matter that a huge percentage of “serious” bands specialized in self-indulgent music that was in the long run largely forgettable.
The Raiders committed what was in the late-60’s the ultimate artistic sin of staying AM when many of their contemporaries (and most newer bands) had gone FM.
What I’m here to say, is that the time is long since due for a reconsideration of the Raiders as a band who maintained an unpretentious approach to making quality sounds in an era where pretention was running amuck.
‘The Great Airplane Strike’ is a perfect example of the kind of stuff they were capable of. Listen to this record, and then go into your crates and pull out an album by a ‘heavier’ band like Moby Grape and play them side by side. If you remove the spectre of the Raiders as pop-TV clowns, there’s not that much separating the two.
As always, I hope you dig the tune, and I’ll be back later in the week.
Peace
Larry

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PS Make sure to stop by Funky16Corners where you will be promptly redirected to the location of a new guest mix.

PSS If you have any interest at all, I’ve started a third, non-music-related blog to track a years worth of reading (and beyond).

The Road – Mr. Soul

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The only picture I could find of The Road

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Listen – The Road – Mr. Soul – MP3

Greetings all.
The end of the week is nigh, and I’m ready to throw in the towel. The period of the last few weeks has seen me engaged in an epic battle with tree pollen, and I’m sad to say that I think I’m losing.
At first it was only a seemingly endless series of sinus headaches. Then my eyes started itching, the congestion expanded and now I find myself on the verge of a rotten case of laryngitis.
It’s almost as if the trees are exacting their revenge for some long forgotten slight by filling my head with thousands (millions) of tiny little soldiers bent on my destruction. I know that this has to end sometime, but honestly…
Anyway, I haven’t lost my ability to write (yet…), so post I must.
The tune I bring you today is by a group that I haven’t been able to track down much info about.
What I can tell you is that The Road hailed from upstate New York (Buffalo to be exact) and that they released a number of 45s on UA and Kama Sutra, as well as one (maybe two) LP for the latter label between 1967 and 1970.
The band, featuring Phil and Jerry Hudson on vocals, Joe and Jim Hesse on bass and keyboards, Ralph Parker on guitar and Nick DeStefano on drums hit the charts (Top 40 in several markets) with their cover of the Zombies’ ‘She’s Not There’ in the early part of 1969.
Their eponymous 1969 LP was composed largely of cover tunes (including two Buffalo Springfield songs). Their version of ‘Mr. Soul’ may not be on the level of the original (one of my favorite songs by one of my two favorite 60’s bands), but it’s still a pretty respectable effort. The Road’s take on ‘Mr Soul’ is a great illustration of how much the rock landscape had changed in the two years since the Buffalo Springfield originally recorded the song, stretching the tune out with a certain era-specific vibe redolent of slightly longer hair, freer love and a somewhat, dare I say ‘Woodstock-ian’ (that’s not really a word, but I think you know what I’m trying to say) aesthetic. There are certainly still ties – especially the lead guitar – to the original (if say Stephen Stills had taken the lead vocal instead of Neil Young), and I dig how the organ kind of percolates under the rhythm section without getting in the way. It’s a great example of the very brief period when rock was starting to loosen up just a bit, before unraveling almost irrevocably in a stinky, denim-patched fog of patchouli, weed smoke and self indulgence.
The folks at Kama Sutra must have thought they had a hit on their hands, with the Road’s version of ‘Mr Soul’ being released on not one, but two different 45s.
I hope you dig it and I’ll see you all on Monday.
Peace
Larry

 

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PS Make sure to stop by Funky16Corners for some sweet, sweet soul.

Noel Harrison – Strawberry Fields Forever

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Noel Harrison

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Listen – Noel Harrison – Strawberry Fields Forever – MP3

Greetings all.
The weekend is winding down and I have to say that all in all it’s been fairly decent.
Yesterday we took our old cat to the vet, fairly sure that it was going to be her long walk to the gallows. She’s lost a fair amount of weight recently in addition to having developed an unquenchable thirst. As it turns out, this old cat is diabetic, and all we have to do is change her diet – to wet cat food which she loves like crack, so no problem there – and start her on an insulin regimen, which shouldn’t be that big a deal.
Aside from that the biggest travail was having to box up and return my latest portable iPod speakers. For the last few years I had a Sonic Impact iF1, which was a very groovy self contained speaker with a hard shell and a rechargeable battery, which allowed me to bring the ole pod to work and keep myself sane with a minimum of difficulty.
Sadly the trusty iF1 died a sudden death a few weeks ago. I did my due diligence and after a fair amount of research ordered the newer Sonic Impact system. Sadly, they’ve made some design changes that I wasn’t happy with (mainly dealing with how securely the iPod mounts while playing, and a wholly unnecessary clock feature) so after much consideration I arranged a return and ordered something else.
This may not sound like a big deal to you, but the advent of the iPod has made a huge impact on my musical enjoyment, especially at work. Now, instead of lugging around a pile of CDs I have a huge library at my fingertips – including all of my Iron Leg and Funky16Corners mixes – and I can listen to everything from Beethoven, to Sol Hoopi, to Kaleidoscope to Eddie Bo whenever I feel like it, as the mood suits me.
As I inferred before, having this luxury/convenience goes a long way to helping maintain my psychological well being in a less than hospitable work environment, so having the right portable speakers (I can’t wear headphones at work) is important, in addition to the fact that the iF1 became a regular part of our packing for vacations. Hopefully the replacement I get will be just what the doctor ordered.
That said, the tune I bring you today is yet another cover of ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’ (there was a version by Richie Havens in the last Iron Leg Digital Trip podcast), this time by Noel Harrison.
If the name sounds familiar, you’re either a 60s pop culture nut, or a bit older than I am. Harrison – son of the famous Rex – was a regular cast member of ‘The Girl from U.N.C.L.E.’ was well as a minor pop star of the mid-to-late 60’s. His musical high point being his vocals on the Oscar winning ‘Windmills of Your Mind’ from ‘The Thomas Crown Affair’ in 1969.
Harrison made a few very cool albums in a kind of elevated singer/songwriter-y mode for the Reprise label between 1967 and 1969. Though – like his old man, whose somewhat “limited” vocal skills can he heard in ‘My Fair Lady’ and ‘Doctor Doolittle’ – Harrison wasn’t a technically gifted singer, he had a way of working with a song that owed a lot to the French chanson style, and was also a great judge of material, covering songs by Donovan, Joni Mitchell, Leonard Cohen (no great singer himself) and others.
His cool take on the Beatles’ ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’ comes from his 1967 ‘Collage’ LP. Dig if you will the spare acoustic guitar backing weaving around Harrison’s vocal, making for a much simpler, but no less cool version of the psychedelic classic.
I first turned on to Harrison via his self-titled 1966 debut on the London label which features a mellow reworking of Oscar Brown Jr.’s vocalese of Miles Davis’ ‘All Blues’. His albums are a staple of the flea market/garage sale world, and are all worth picking up. Rhino Handmade also did a restrospective compilation on CD.
I hope you dig the tune and I’ll be back later in the week.
Peace
Larry

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PS Make sure to stop by Funky16Corners for a new funk podcast.

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