Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band – Zig Zag Wanderer

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The Original Cap’n Crunch…

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Listen/Download – Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band – Zig Zag Wanderer

Greetings all.

I’ve been hanging on to today’s selection – one of my all-time favorite records – for a long, long time.

As is often the case with a piece of music that hits me in the deepest possible places, I often circle the record warily, looking for the right time to approach.

‘Zig Zag Wanderer’ by Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band is an absolutely perfect example of an artist in transition, from a place where they have at least a tenuous grasp on conventional musicality, through something strange, and on into something extra-double strange.

You can locate this sweet spot on mid-60s records by Frank Zappa (who’s later work holds almost no appeal for me), and the Fugs.

In these cases it is almost as if the artist decided to dip their toes into rock and roll, made a record or two while they were getting comfortable (or until they thought no one was looking) and then went, if not batshit, some approximation thereof in relation to their early work.

I’m one of those poor slobs who unwittingly – led on by early 70s rock critics – went out and bought myself a copy of ‘Trout Mask Replica’, utterly unprepared for the sounds packed into its grooves.

Naturally, this put me off of Beefheart for quite a while, until sometime in the mid-80s someone on the garage scene hepped me to Cap’s first 45, of ‘Diddy Wah Diddy’ (you heard it here a while back) and then a little bit later, offered me a tape of his first long-player, 1967’s ‘Safe as Milk’.

‘Safe as Milk’ is the perfect place for someone who wants to know what Captain Beefheart is all about, yet isn’t quite ready to rewire their brains.

You get all the components of the Beefheart sound, i.e. heavy blues influence, weird time signatures, surreal lyrics etc, yet they are all filtered through the rest of 1967, so you get it all couched in garage/psyche energy and frameworks.

The finest track on the album – in my opinion, anyway – is the mighty ‘Zig Zag Wanderer’.

Opening with a guitar riff that sounds as if it’s charging at you down a narrow hallway, followed by the whispered ‘Zig Zaaaaag!’, the song blows wide open, sounding like a psychedelic buffalo stampede, wherein all the buffalo are the bastard spawn of Howling Wolf and a Caterpillar bulldozer.

You also get (for this album only) the guitar wrangling skills of young Ry Cooder, who wails.

The good Captain hollers in a way that must have seemed good and freaky to the heads, probably scaring off more than a few, but at the same time pulling a few new converts into the cult.

If you dig ‘Zig Zag Wanderer’ you will probably like the whole album. I can’t say how you’ll feel about the later stuff, since that usually requires a whole lot of work, that not everyone is willing to put in.

So dig it, and I’ll see you next week.

Zig Zaaaaaaaag…….

Peace

Larry

 

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PS Head over to Funky16Corners for some soul.

RIP Ron Edgar

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The Music Machine, Ron Edgar 2nd from left

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The Millennium, Ron Edgar 2nd from right

 

Listen/Download – Music Machine – Talk Talk

Listen/Download – Music Machine – Masculine Intuition

Listen/Download – The Millennium – Prelude/To Claudia On Thursday

Listen/Download – The Millennium -I Just Want To Be Your Friend (45 edit)

Greetings all.

A little more than a week ago the sad news came down that Ron Edgar, drummer for both the Music Machine and the Millennium had passed away at the age of 68.

Edgar, who had gotten his start as a jazz drummer, had played with Curt Boettcher in one of the iterations of his early group the Goldebriars, before joining Sean Bonniwell’s group the Music Machine.

The Music Machine, known to most as a one-hit wonder (‘Talk Talk’ went Top 40 in the Fall of 1966), were actually one of the deeper bands of the garage era.

They combine complex music, and dark lyrics, all presented in a fuzzed-out, garage-on-the-way-to-psychedelic sound that gave their records a timeless feel that makes them as exciting today as they were almost 50 years ago.

Edgar’s complicated and hard-hitting drumming was an important part of the Music Machine sound, taking a co-lead role in ‘Talk Talk’ and providing layers of sophistication to songs like ‘Masculine Intuition’.

Following the break-up of the Music Machine (Mk1), Boettcher enlisted Edgar (and his Music Machine bandmates Doug Rhodes and Keith Olsen) to work in the studio on tracks for the Sagittarius project. They were soon joined by Lee Mallory, Sandy Salisbury, Michael Fennelly and Joey Stec and became the Millennium.

The Millennium were even more sophisticated than the Music Machine, taking cues from all corners of the pop/rock world, and having one of the heaviest songwriting pools around right there in the band.

I’ve written a lot about the Millennium here at Iron Leg, but I don’t think I’ve ever directly addressed the majesty of the opening tracks of their sole LP ‘Begin’*.

‘Prelude/To Claudia On Thursday’ form not only one of the most sublime and uplifting medleys in the history of 60s pop, but are also a great illustration of the percussive versatility of Ron Edgar.

‘Prelude’, which opens with harpsichord and congas (or tablas?), is soon blown wide open by Edgar’s drums, with an emphasis on a supremely heavy bass drum foot, expanded on with jazzy work on the snare and cymbals.

Segueing directly into ‘To Claudia On Thursday’, you get to hear Edgar lay down a Brazilian beat underneath the heavenly, Beatle-esque harmonies of the group. The way the voices come together in this song – trademark Boettcher – is practically unmatched. This is one of those records you have to really plug into with headphones, and let the voices wash over you.

Edgar’s subtle, jazz-inflected playing on ‘I Just Want To Be Your Friend’ (presented here in its 45 mix) is also excellent.

Edgar went on to play on a variety of Millennium-related solo projects, as well as appearing on Bread’s 1969 debut LP.

He was a great drummer and an important part of 60s pop history, and will be missed.

I hope you dig the sounds, and I’ll see you next week.

Peace

Larry

 

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*Though I have posted the Jimmie Haskell/Denny Doherty covers of these tunes
PS Head over to Funky16Corners for some soul.

Cast of Thousands – The Cast’s Blues

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Early Cast of Thousands,
Stevie Ray Vaughn (center), Stephen Tobolowsky (right)

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Listen/Download – Cast of Thousands – The Cast’s Blues

Greetings all.

This week I bring you a very groovy 45 by a band with an exceptionally unusual pedigree.

Years ago, back when I was first digging around for info about garage bands, but before the interwebs were up and running, I’d heard that Stevie Ray Vaughn had played with a band called Cast of Thousands.

Flash forward a few decades and I discover that the band in question was also home to ubiquitous character actor (and podcaster) Stephen Tobolowsky.

In between those two dots on the timeline, I happened to find a couple of 45s by the band, ‘Girl What You Gonna Do’ b/w ‘My Jenny Wears a Mini’ (both sides of which have appeared in Iron Leg mixes and poscasts) and the disc you see before you today, ‘Country Gardens’ b/w ‘The Cast’s Blues’.

As it turns out, SRV only played in (and recorded with) an embryonic version of the band that laid down two decidedly non-garage tracks.

The Cast of Thousands hailed from Dallas and had a series of 45s released on Tower, Amy and Soft (as well as the two SRV tracks released on a local comp) in 1966 and 1967.

‘The Cast’s Blues’ was the b-side of their final 45, and also featured Buggs Henderson before he joined Mouse and the Traps.

‘Cast’s Blues’ starts out as a slow, psyched out jam (with what sounds like electric sitar) before picking up the pace into a slightly harder-edged sound.

The a-side is an odd mix of folk rock, phased vocals and just a touch of psychedelia.

If you get the chance, head over to Music Life Radio and listen to a recording of Tobolowsky telling the story of Stevie Ray Vaughn’s time in the band.

I hope you dig the track, and I’ll see you all next week.

Peace

Larry

 

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PS Head over to Funky16Corners for some soul.

Don and the Goodtimes – Little Sally Tease

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Don and the Goodtimes, Jim Valley, center

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Listen/Download – Don and the Goodtimes – Little Sally Tease

Greetings all.

A while back I featured a very groovy PNW garage nugget, that being the Kingsmen doing ‘Trouble’.

I made mention of the PNW standard ‘Little Sally Tease’ in that piece (covered by the Kingsmen and the Standells down in LA), after which I realized (I was both shocked and stunned) that I had never featured the original version of that song here at Iron Leg.

That version, by Don and the Goodtimes is – in my opinion – the finest of them all.

This has something to do with the presence of the song’s author, Jim Valley.

Valley is as close as you get to a PNW ‘Zelig’.

He got his start recording with the Viceroys, went on to join Don and the Goodtimes and then joined Paul Revere and the Raiders,  before recording as a solo artist!

‘Little Sally Tease’ was first released by Don and the Goodtimes in 1965 on Jerden, and it was picked up for national release by Dunhill.

The group – which also shared members with the Kingsmen (Jack Ely) – laid down some of the grittiest PNW garage, before evolving into something of a sweeter pop sound during their Epic years.

‘Little Sally Tease’ is one of those records that sounds as if the entire group were recorded inside the bass drum.

The record opens with a couple of thunderous snare drum shots, before being joined by the combo organ , guitar and bass and of course the wailing vocals.

It is a masterpiece of 65/66 garage, and the kind of 45 that sets the dance floor on fire as soon as the needle drops.

So dig it.

I’ll see you next week.

Peace

Larry

 

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PS Head over to Funky16Corners for some soul.

The Associated Soul Group – Don’t Think Twice / Wild Times

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Hubba Hubba…

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Listen/Download – Associated Soul Group – Don’t Think Twice

Listen/Download – Associated Soul Group – Wild Times

Greetings all.

Here’s something crazy for you.

I picked up the Associated Soul Group LP a while back because a friend had posted their version of ‘Are You Experienced’, mainly because it included a drum break.

I’m always game for exploito/covers, so when the chance presented itself, I grabbed myself a copy of the album.

What I discovered was that in addition to a couple of groovy instrumentals, there are a couple of excellent garage/psyche tracks as well.

The history/provenance of the the Associated Soul Group is largely lost to the ages, since there probably never was an actual group by that name, and the fact that the music included on the album in question may very well have emanated from more than one source.

The tunes I bring you today, my faves from the LP are two great slices of 66/67 garage called ‘Don’t Think Twice’ and ‘Wild Times’.

‘Don’t Think Twice’, which opens with a very groovy guitar line has the slightly polished sound of 66-era Sunset Strip to it.

‘Wild Times’ works a similar vibe, adding in a touch of Paul Revere and the Raiders. Interestingly enough, this very song, (sounding like the same group, though a different recording) was released as a 45 by the Id, of ‘Boil the Kettle Mother’ fame.

‘Don’t Think Twice’ also appeared under the Id name, as well as appearing on an LP by the ‘Projection Company’.

I have (and have heard) a bunch of similarly intended albums, and what sets these tracks apart is how good they are, so much so as to be too good (if you know what I mean). It pains me to think of some anonymous bunch of longhairs having offered up their best material, only to have the songs recycled/renamed and stuffed into supermarket and gas station record racks until the record company had managed to squeeze the last drop of musical blood from the stone.

There are some names tied to these sounds, namely Jerry Cole and Paul Arnold (at least as far as writing credit is concerned) but the list of groups in this particular orbit – including the Animated Egg, T. Swift and the Electric Bag, Associated Soul Group, Firebirds, Projection Company – only serves to muddy the water.

That said, I do dig these songs a lot, and I hope you do too.

Peace

Larry

 

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PS Head over to Funky16Corners for some soul.

Iron Leg Radio Show Episode #45

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Beep beep beep beep…..

Playlist

Alan Hawkshaw/Keith Mansfield – Action Scene (KPM)
The Move – Fire Brigade (A&M)
The Move – Walk Upon the Water (A&M)
The Move – Flowers In the Rain (A&M)
The Move – Here We Go Round the Lemon Tree (A&M)
Tom Northcott – Blackberry Way (UNI)
The Fortunes – Fire Brigade (UA)

Jennifer – Close Another Door (Parrot)
Jennifer – Sunny Day Blue (Parrot)
Jennifer – Chelsea Morning (Parrot)
Jennifer – I Am Waiting (Parrot)
Jennifer – Places Everyone (Parrot) Fargo
Jennifer – The Park (Parrot)
Jennifer – Saturday Night at the World (Parrot)
Jennifer – Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues (Parrot)

Jennifer Warren – PF Sloan (Reprise)
Jennifer Warren – Empty Bottles (Reprise)
Jennifer Warren – Sand and Foam (Reprise)
Jennifer Warren – Be My Friend (Reprise)
Jennifer Warren – These Days (Reprise)
Jennifer Warren – Magdelene My Regal Zonophone (Reprise)

Hoyt Axton – Double Double Dare (VeeJay)
Hoyt Axton – I’ll Be There (VeeJay)
Peddlers – Song For the Blues (Philips)
Peddlers – Whatever Happened to the Good Times (Philips)
Lee Mallory – Take My Hand (Valiant)
Lee Mallory – The Love Song (Valiant)
Summer Snow- Flying On the Ground (Capitol)
Summer Snow – Your Thoughts Have Wings (Capitol)
Velvet Underground – Jesus (MGM)
Velvet Underground – I’m Set Free (MGM)
Velvet Underground – I’m Beginning To See the Light (MGM)

Listen/Download -Iron Leg Radio Show Episode #45 – 203MB/256kbps

 

NOTE: There were some problems with sound  dropping out in this edition of the podcast. I reassembled the file from scratch and remixed it. The link above should work fine. If it doesn’t, please let me know.

Thanks – Larry

 

Greetings all.

Welcome to this month’s episode (#45) of the Iron Leg Radio Show.

Thanks completely to aforementioned health issues, this episode comes to you a little late, yet no less groovy.

There are all kinds of goodies this time out, especially two sets of very interesting, little-heard early work by the vocalist Jennifer Warnes.

I hope you dig it.

See you next week.

Peace

Larry

 

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PS Head over to Funky16Corners

The Jordan Brothers – Gimme Some Lovin’

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The Jordan Brothers

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Listen/Download – The Jordan Brothers – Gimme Some Lovin’

Greetings all.

I know that today’s post makes for two British invasion covers in a row, but sometimes that’s just how it works out.

Fittingly, I first heard of the Jordan Brothers version of ‘Gimme Some Lovin’ while looking for information on another early version of a bigger hit (probably one of Evie Sands many near-misses). I had never heard of the group, and the idea that they had beaten the Spencer Davis Group onto the charts in the US (with their own song) was intriguing, so I set off in search of my own copy.

Fortunately this was neither difficult nor expensive, and in no time at all I was grooving to the Jordan Brothers take on the song.

The Jordan Brothers were (unsurprisingly) brothers, though the amount of actual brothers in the band apparently changed over the course of their career.

Based out of Frackville, Pennsylvania, the Jordans released a string of 45s for a variety of labels (having a minor hit in 1960 with ‘Things I Didn’t Say’) through the 1960s and 1970s.

Their record company got their hands on a tape of the Spencer Davis Group original – already a hit in the UK – and the recorded their own, slightly garagier/less soulful version of the song and released it in the November of 1966, scoring a decent regional hit with it in a number of East Coast markets.

The Spencer Davis Group version would hit the US charts in December of 1966, competing with the Jordan Brothers version, but eventually scoring a much bigger, more widespread hit (which is why you know who Steve Winwood is, but probably never heard of the Jordan Brothers).

This was the only substantial chart appearance for the Jordan Brothers, who would continue releasing music into the 1970s.

I hope you dig the track, and I’ll see you next week.

Peace

Larry

 

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PS Head over to Funky16Corners for some soul.

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