Billy J Kramer – 1941

Example

Billy J Kramer, looking all dreamy…

Example

Listen/Download – Billy J Kramer – 1941

Greetings all.

I hope the last week of the summer (contractual, not actual) finds you all well.

The fam and I took a short vacation last week, and I’m happy to say that among our many touristy stops, we also fell by one of my old record haunts (out in the hinterlands) where I was able to scoop up some new stuff for both blogs.

This was of course a bittersweet experience, because back in the day (like a decade ago) this place was packed from floor to ceiling with all kinds of groovy 45s, so much so that every time I went out there I ended up having to sift through my stack and prioritize, returning several discs to the box because my covetousness far exceeded the limits of my billfold.

Sadly – as is almost always the case – word got out and before long every single digger within 100 miles had descended upon this store and pretty much cleaned it out (and as is also always the case, I’d heard that my pals and I had been preceded in this location by collectors with even deeper pockets and were left to wonder what amazing stuff we had missed).

That was about eight years ago, and when I returned I held out little hope for a serious score, but as I am pathologically unable to pass up an opportunity to paw through records I stopped anyway, and I’m glad I did.
Though the situation hasn’t really improved (most of the 45s appear to be post 1985 jukebox filler) there were a couple of cool things to be grabbed, and since the seven-inchers were relatively uninspiring, I worked my way through the newly arrived LPs and got some cool stuff.

That said, the tune I bring you today is something I picked up at the last all-45 show in Allentown. It goes out to my man Mr Luther, with the dedication ‘Awright little children!’ (he’ll know what it means…).

Though I knew that Billy J. Kramer had a few interesting post-Beat era sides, I did not know that he had covered one of my favorite Harry Nilsson tunes, ‘1941’.

This 1968 45 is a very faithful rendition of Nilsson’s original, hewing closely to the arrangement (with a little added church organ), and while Kramer was not the possessor or Nilsson’s crystal clear tenor, he was no slouch vocally and did a fine job on the song.

The song, which juxtaposes a jaunty arrangement with one of Nilsson’s sadder (autobiographical) lyrics, originally appeared on his 1967 ‘Pandemonium Shadow Show’ LP. If you’re not already hip to Nilsson’s first two RCA LPs, you need to track them down because they really are lost treasures.

I hope you dig the tune, and I’ll be back later in the week

Peace

Larry

Example

PS Head over to Funky16Corners for a New Orleans funk 45.

Artie Wayne – Automated Man

Example

Listen/Download – Artie Wayne – Automated Man

Greetings all.

I’m gonna make this fast, since I’m writing this in advance of a short trip with the fam, so even though I’m here, I’m not actually “here”, if you get what I mean.

This is something groovy I picked up an a whim as a cheap ‘buy it now’ on account of it looked interesting. When it fell through the mail slot it revealed itself as at least ten times as cool as I thought it was going to be.

The name Artie Wayne was vaguely familiar, and when I started to research this one it was immediately clear as to why that was.

During the 60s and 70s (and beyond) Artie Wayne was a busy man, writing, producing and performing on tons of records under a variety of noms de plume (including Shadow Mann). Oddly enough, though his songs were recorded by tons of well known (and lesser known) pop, rock and soul artists, I’ll be damned if any of them ring a bell (with the exception of ‘Hallelujah‘ by the Clique, and the fact that he supposedly had something to with this…).

This of course renders Wayne one of the great ‘background’ songwriters/pluggers/producers of his day. He was clearly a very busy man (check out his web site for more info).

He recorded ‘Automated Man’ in 1966 for the Smash label, and a quick listen (or a long one) reveals it to be a minor lost classic, crossing the streams as it were between garage, folk rock, protest and pop. It’s an unusual combination , and it’s not hard to imagine ‘Automated Man’ playing in the background to a scene of 66 era Sunset Strip longhairs doing their thing.

I like it a lot and I hope you do too.

Now to start picking through the crates to see what other Artie Wayne tracks I can find.

 

 

Peace

Larry

 

Example

 

 

PS Head over to Funky16Corners for some funk (what else?).

Cilla Black – It’s For You

Example

Cilla Black

Example

Listen/Download – Cilla Black – It’s For You

Greetings all.

I hope all is well on your end.

The tune I bring you today is something that I grabbed during an impromptu dig a few weeks ago.

Though as a childhood Beatle-nut, I was certainly aware of their Liverpudlian home girl Cilla Black, I can’t say I knew much of her music aside from her hits.

Black, who’s biggest US hit was her 1964 recording of ‘You’re My World’ went far beyond that in the UK where she is the very definition of an ‘institution’, having had a long and successful career as a singer, actress and TV host.

I would not normally have been inclined to grab a Cilla Black 45 in the field (unless it was her epic version of ‘Alfie’), but when I picked up ‘It’s For You’ (a song I’d never heard before) I noticed that it had been written by a couple of lads named Lennon and McCartney, so I threw my dollar on the counter and took it home with me.

When I gave the disc a spin I was pleasantly surprised to hear an unusual, Bacharach/David influenced sounding tune.

I am by no means an expert on non-Beatle Lennon/McCartney compositions, but I have heard enough of them to know that ‘It’s For You’ is unlike most.

I have seen a reference that says that McCartney himself plays the piano on the record, and that he and Lennon modeled the tune after the Bacharach/David tune ‘Anyone Who Had a Heart’, with which Black had already had a UK hit.

‘It’s For You’ is a sophisticated, waltz-time number with an unusual melody. Produced by George Martin (who else?) there’s a nice balance between the rhythm section and the strings (subdued) and a vaguely jazzy feel to the whole affair.

As is the case with most of these non-Beatle/Beatle tunes, I try to imagine the song as recorded by the Fabs, and it’s not hard to picture ‘It’s For You’ (in a stripped down version) as one of the darker originals on their early albums.

Nothing earth shattering, but an interesting record to get the week started.

Peace

Larry

Example

PS Head over to Funky16Corners for a New Orleans funk 45.

Everything Is Everything – Witchi Tai To b/w Ooh Baby

Example

Jim Pepper

Example

Listen/Download – Everything Is Everything – Witchi Tai To

Listen/Download – Everything Is Everything – Ooh Baby

Greetings all.

I hope you’re all well.
The boys and I have narrowly survived a week without my wife. That we made it this far without lapsing into malnutrition or all out war is nothing short of a miracle, and we’re all extremely happy that the Mrs has returned to the nest.
The tune I bring you today is one that I was aware of for many years in cover versions, but only found a copy of the original earlier this year.
‘Witchi Tai To’, which was based on a Native American peyote chant, has been covered many times since its initial release in 1969 by artists as diverse as Harpers Bizarre, Oregon, Brewer & Shipley and Jan Garbarek.
The tune was composed by Jim Pepper, a jazz rock saxophonist with Native American roots who originally recorded it with the band Everything Is Everything.
Pepper made his first recordings with the early jazz-rock band The Free Spirits, which recorded an album for Vanguard in 1966. That group was notable for the inclusion of guitarist Larry Coryell among its members, but it also included guitarist Chip Baker, and bassist Chris Hills who would go on a few years later to join Pepper in Everything Is Everything.
When I started to research this record I was surprised to discover that the Everything Is Everything version of ‘Witchi Tai To’ was a minor hit in early 1969, scraping the outer limits of the Top 40 in a lot of markets.
It is indeed a very catchy tune, and I can imagine a lot of the pop audience simultaneously enchanted and stymied by the chant that runs through the song.
I haven’t heard the rest of the album, but the flipside ‘Oooh Baby’ is very cool in a 1969-y kinda way. It’s only vaguely jazzy in that end of the decade free-festival, mud in between my toes kind of way, tuneful and poppy enough to be accessible, but loose enough to please the long-hairs.
Pepper went on to record frequently as a sideman (with jazzers like Charlie Haden and Paul Motian), and under his own name, as well as working on Native American causes until his untimely death in 1992.
I hope you dig the tunes, and I’ll see you on Monday.

Peace

Larry

Example

PS Head over to Funky16Corners for a tight jazz funk 45.

Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich – He’s a Raver

Example

Dave Dee and the rest of the gang…

Example

Listen/Download – Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich – He’s a Raver

Greetings all.

I hope you’re all well, since I’m sitting here with what feels like a migraine headache.
Fortunately it’s fairly quiet here, so I figured I’d get some blogging in before I try to nap the pain away.
The tune I bring you today is something that I have coveted for a long, LONG time, and only just scored a copy (at a nice price, natch) in the last month.
I’ve been a big fan of Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick and Tich (known henceforth as DDDBM&T) since I first heard their music about 25 years ago. There was a point at about that time where I scored almost all of their cool 45s at various discount prices (I’m not sure anything of theirs, aside from oddball foreign issues, is actually ‘rare’), but the tune I bring you today eluded me.
Now, there are those that will tell you that DDDBM&T had probably the worst name in 60s pop, but even the briefest survey will reveal that although it is quite akward, their name is surpassed in pure stupidity by any number of US-based hippie bands.
DDDBM&T are one of those rare groups who were clearly being sold to their audience as teen-dream, bubblegum, candy-floss, yet managed to transcend those labels.
They were handled, and provided with much of their material (most of their hits) by Ken Howard and Alan Blaikley (who also worked their magic with the Herd), and though much of their catalog could be labeled formulaic, it was a good formula, matching razor sharp pop hooks with an aggressive, Freakbeaty vibe that got them 14 Top 40 hits in the UK (and almost as many in Germany and New Zealand) between 1965 and 1970.
This is not to say that they didn’t have their lame moments, but their best stuff is not to me missed.
The tune I bring you today, ‘He’s a Raver’ is in my opinion the best thing they ever did, a freakbeat masterpiece and interestingly enough, penned by the band.
It was the b-side to the much less interesting ‘Okay’ in 1967 and was a Top 10 hit in the UK and Germany (thus the Star Club issue of the 45).
‘He’s a Raver’ sounds like the intersection of the pilled-up Mod sound and the frilly-cuffed Carnaby Street vibe of ’67.
The lyrics, concerning a wealthy scenemaker who ‘lives in a castle in the country’ and ‘buys the finest clothes’ who’s hair is so long ‘people stop and stare’.
It’s propelled by heavy guitar, throbbing bass (that sounds about twice as loud as anything else on the track) and a very groovy organ break halfway through the tune.
I can just imagine the crowd at the Tiles (no doubt including several people who fit the description from the song) losing their shit when this came over the speakers.
I know I do and I hope you do too.
Psyche out baby!

Peace

Larry

Example

PS Head over to Funky16Corners for a a new Funky16Corners Radio mix.

Free Design x 6 : Chris Dedrick RIP

Example

Free Design

Example

Example

Listen -Free Design – Kites are Fun – MP3

Listen -Free Design – Jack In the Box Radio Spot – MP3

Listen -Free Design – Bubbles – MP3

Listen -Free Design – You Could Be Born Again – MP3

Listen -Free Design – 2002 a Hit Song – MP3

Listen -Free Design – The Proper Ornaments – MP3

Greetings all.

I just heard yesterday that Chris Dedrick, leader of one of my favorite pop groups the Free Design had passed away at the age of 62. He was living in Canada.
I was going to write something new, but realized that I’d already said what I wanted to about the group in this post from last year.
I am however adding a couple of tracks I haven’t had up in this space before, including what may be, if not the rarest track by the band, the weirdest, that being an early 70s commercial jingle for the Jack In the Box burger chain.
The quality isn’t fantastic, but I don’t imagine there are many copies of this one floating around, so take it for what it is.
If you haven’t picked up any of their stuff, iTunes features a couple of nice ‘best of’ comps, as well as all of the full albums.
My sympathies go out to his family.

Originally posted June 2009

The tune I bring you today has been sitting in my “to be blogged” folder for a while, waiting for just the right time to be posted. A few weeks ago a reader wrote asking if I would ever post said song, and since it was burning a hole in my hard drive, I took the request as a sign, said yes, and here we are.
Despite all evidence to the contrary, there was once a time where my taste for the twee side of pop was, for lack of a better term, undeveloped. If you had played a Free Design (or Curt Boettcher) track for my long-haired, Led Zeppelin listening to self, I would have choked on the sugar and perhaps beaten you soundly (though in that same period I was often stoned and sluggish, so you probably would have gotten beyond my grasp without much effort).
When I look back on it, this seems odd because the band that got my head into music in the first place was the hookiest of all, that being the Beatles. My sensibilities have always been hooks and harmony attuned, but like any youngster (which believe it or not I once was) I had a head full of roadblocks that only time and tide would erode. Now that I am at an age my 18 year old self would likely consider my dotage (I’m 46), many of those walls have been torn down, some by myself, some by the urging of others and some all by themselves.
If memory serves I first found my way to the Free Design via the mid-90s Japanese fascination with them and their sweet sounding ilk, via the pricey reissues put out by Cornelius, and the homage by groups like Pizzicato Five. At some point I got my hands on the compilation by Varese Sarabande, and my mind was, in short order, good and truly blown.
It’s only in the last few years that I finally acquired some OG Free Design vinyl (there are still a couple of albums I’m looking for) and I was pleasantly surprised that much of the material that I hadn’t heard yet was up to the standards of the ‘greastest hits’.
Like many of the groups I would group with the Free Design, like Sagittarius, the Millennium, early Paul Williams (all faves, and barely scratching the surface of the genre), I would hesitate to push them on anyone that wasn’t already somewhat attuned to the sound. The digestion of this kind of music requires a certain amount of context and preparation for proper appreciation. Where the Curt Boettcher sound is based in a conventional pop/rock setting, the Free Design drew from Now Sound and sophisticated harmony singing like the Hi-Los and the Swingle Singers before touching on rock tangentially, sounding like a high school swing choir led by a pop visionary. Though their arrangements were often dense with ideas, and the backing tight and energetic, at first listen some of their recordings sound like so much candy floss.
There were times when I was first exposed to the group where the music seemed to radiate earnestness that at times struck me as a put on. However, repeat listening, especially to the right songs, reveals that the group really had a lot going on.
Formed in the mid-60s by the Dedrick siblings (Chris, Bruce, Sandy, Ellen and Stefanie) the members of the Free Design came from a musical family. Their seven albums (most of which were released on Enoch Light’s Project 3 imprint) were a mixture of brilliant original material and interesting covers (Bacharach/David, Turtles), all delivered with the group’s intricate harmonies and backing from the same group of crack session players that recorded for Enoch Light’s other projects.
The tune I bring you today is the title track from their first LP, 1967’s ‘Kites are Fun’. An ode to the pure, childlike pleasure of kite flying – something that would have been assumed to have lysergic roots in other hands – ‘Kites are Fun’ features cascading, madrigal-like harmonies and a relatively spare backing (bass, tambourine, acoustic guitar and recorder), and lyrics that defy any attempt at interpretation on anything but face value. No one was going to hear ‘Kites are Fun’ and jump to conclusions that what the Free Design were blending their heavenly voices about was a euphemism for anything stronger that a little exercise in a windy field.
That vibe is one of the things I dig so much about the Free Design. Like the narrator in ‘Bubbles’ (featured in Iron Leg Digital Trip #18), the person singing about kites is undeniably a kid. This may be hard for someone from 2009 to understand, but Free Design were operating in an irony-free zone. This is not music delivered with a wink and a knowing smile. To paraphrase a then popular phrase, with Free Design, what you hear is what you get.
If you get a chance to scan their entire catalog, it is clear that they were capable of delivering more adult themes – they did a wonderful version of one of my fave Bacharach songs ‘Windows of the World’ – and despite the childlike subject matter, the music of Free Design was nothing if not sophisticated. If I ever get my hands on the rest of their records, I may have to do an all Free Design edition of the Iron Leg Digital Trip.
I hope you dig the tune, and I’ll be back later in the week with something Free Design-related.

Peace

Larry

Example

*Keeping things kid, on an episode of the very groovy ‘Yo Gabba Gabba’ I was surprised to hear a cover (with a short, animated video) of ‘Kites are Fun’ as performed by the Parallelograms. Back in the 60s the song was covered by another Project 3 artist, guitarist Tony Mottola.

PS Head over to Funky16Corners for some classical jazz funk (really).

Pizzicato Five – Twiggy Twiggy

Example

Pizzicato Five

Example

Listen/Download – Pizzicato Five – Twiggy Twiggy

Greetings all.

The tune I bring you today is by far the latest track I’ve ever featured on Iron Leg, and is a tune that I have loved since I first heard it back in the early 90s.
I don’t recall where I first heard Pizzicato Five, though it’s entirely possible that I read about them, and was interested in them as a concept long before their music ever reached my ears.
Though you’d never know it by reading Iron Leg, I have long been a fan of sample-based pop. It’s one of the few postmodern cultures that I really dig, and it has been a home for some of the most innovative musical minds of the last 35 years (taking it back to the early days of rap).
The concept of musical collage and the re-purposing of elements of previous recordings, sometimes reduced to the shortest drum break or loop, sometimes done with the heaviest and most unimaginative of hands (see Diddy, P), has had far reaching artistic and legal implications and in the right hands has produced some amazing music.
Going back to the original hip hop Djs like Kool Herc, Africa Bambaataa and Grandmaster Flash, who created on the turntables while cutting breaks, on through any number of non-hip hop artists (like Beck) and again to DJs like DJ Shadow and Cut Chemist the idea of stripping down previously recorded music and employing its component parts to create something new is probably the most important musical idea of the last 40 years.
It goes far beyond the artists mentioned above, and the concept extends beyond actual sampling into a kind of stylistic pastiche, in which some or all of the sampling is accomplished via creation and re-creation of a vibe.
Pizzicato Five, as part of the Japanese Shibuya-kei movement (along with another fave of mine, DJ Towa Tei of Dee Lite) took these ideas and ran with them, mixing it with a remarkable, high-style aesthetic in which the creation extends beyond the sound of the record and well into the performance and packaging.
This was of course nothing new, but Pizzicato Five elevated it to a whole new level.
The roots of Pizzicato Five go back into the early 80s, but I first became aware of them after Matador started to compile and repackage their releases for the US market.
The first song I remember hearing by them was ‘Baby Love Child’, which along with today’s selection appeared on the 1994 ‘Five by Five’ EP, which I originally picked up on CD.
I do recall seeing their videos at the time, which were an indispensable adjunct to the music. Hearing a song like ‘Twiggy Twiggy’ is one thing. Seeing the video that accompanied it (yes, I know, yet another postmodern concept, and a whole new bag as far as processing music goes) is another experience entirely.
In the case of Pizzicato Five, it’s probably necessary to take them in as a complete package, adding yet another iteration of postmodernism.
Using photography, costumes, visual and textual iconography, Pizzicato Five assembled a pastiche of the late 50’s/early 60s Jet Age that is composed entirely of its older component parts – fashion, design, architecture, cinema and of course, music – and yet also entirely new.
‘Twiggy Twiggy’, which samples Lalo Schifrin‘s ‘Man From Thrush’ , Dionne Warwick’s ‘Another Night’ and a snippet of the Ventures’ ‘Hawaii Five O’, is in its own way the ne plus ultra of what might have been had the cocktail/bachelor pad/tiki thing ever fallen into the right hands. I’d say that those hands belonged to the Pizzicato Five, but their catalog is much more than ‘Twiggy Twiggy’ reaching further into pop, soul, disco and electronica.
‘Twiggy Twiggy’ (which is actually a cover/restructuring of a 1981 version of the song by Pizzicato Five singer Maki Nomiya) contains within its four minutes a lightning fast, danceable panorama of the swinging 60s.
It’s like someone took the bossa nova, La Dolce Vita, Op Art, early discotheque culture (the Peppermint Lounge, Regine’s and Arthur), Swinging London, Blow Up, and yes, Twiggy, tossed it all into a blender and hit the frappe setting.
Those of us who had all those bits and pieces floating around in our heads, ‘Twiggy Twiggy’ was a revelation. Had it been more popular, we might all have been spared years of lame Austin Powers-isms, since it would have sucked all of that out of the ether before Mike Myers could have gotten his sticky hands on it.
It’s a mind blower, and I hope you dig it.

Peace

Larry

Example


*The first time I heard ‘Twiggy Twiggy’ I immediately thought I was hearing a sample of ‘The Cat’ by Jimmy Smith (also written by Lalo Schifrin). There are a number of on-line sources that suggest that this is true, but after listening to them side by side it sounds to me that the piece in question is not in fact taken from the famous version of ‘The Cat’ on Verve. The notes/pitch are different. I don’t know if the similarity is coincidental, or if a musician actually replayed the sample for the recording. If anyone knows for sure, please drop me a line.

PS Head over to Funky16Corners for a a new mix from the Funky16Corners Soul Club.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,537 other followers