Friday, August 29, 2008

De Rigueur, Baby

This footage of The Animals miming their number one hit "The House of the Rising Sun" was taken from the 1965 music review film entitled Pop Gear (aka Go-Go Mania), hosted by beloved DJ and British television personality Jimmy Savile.

Pop Gear showcased the following British acts:

  • Pre-credits: She Loves You – The Beatles (from Pathe newsreel footage of their Nov. 20, 1963, Manchester concert)
  • Little Children - Billy J. Kramer and the Dakotas
  • Make Him Mine - Susan Maughan
  • Juliet - The Four Pennies
  • The House of the Rising Sun - The Animals
  • A Little Loving - The Fourmost
  • He's in Town - The Rockin’ Berries
  • Have I the Right - The Honeycombs
  • Rinky Dink - Sounds Incorporated
  • World Without Love - Peter and Gordon
  • Walk Away - Matt Monroe
  • I'm Into Something Good - Herman's Hermits
  • Tommy Quickly and the Reno Four - Humpty Dumpty
  • Watcha Gonna Do - Billie Davis
  • My Babe - The Spencer Davis Group
  • Tobacco Road - The Nashville Teens
  • What In The World's Come Over You - The Rockin' Berries
  • For Mama - Matt Monroe
  • Black Girl - The Four Pennies
  • William Tell - Sounds Incorporated
  • Google Eyes - The Nashville Teens
  • Eyes - The Honeycombs
  • Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood - The Animals
  • Pop Gear - Matt Monroe
  • Closing credits: Twist And Shout – The Beatles
(Artists and songs gathered from Wikipedia)
The Animals, the Nashville Teens, and the Spencer Davis Group distinctively stand out from the other acts featured on Pop Gear because of their blues/folk influences, standing in sharp contrast to the pop sounds of the other acts. (Stay tuned for a feature on many of these bands in a forthcoming entries.)

The Animals began life as the Alan Price Combo in their rough hometown of Newcastle, a background that certainly helped infuse their r&b sound with a tough, authentic quality. The band consisted of Hilton Valentine on lead guitar, Alan Price on organ, Chas Chandler on bass and John Steel on drums. When the soulful, outrageous Eric Burdon joined as lead vocalist in 1962, the band became known as "The Animals" because of their wild stage act. When famed London record producer Mickie Most discovered them in 1963, the Animals were quickly signed to Columbia records and began recording their first single, "Baby Let Me Take You Home," a toned-down version of a song that had appeared on Bob Dylan's first Columbia album. However, it was their second single, an old folk ballad which was also recorded by Dylan, that propelled the Animals to the top of the UK and US singles charts: "The House of the Rising Sun." This raw, mournful track about a New Orleans brothel perfectly suited the Animals' style and showcased Burdon's wailing vocals. It is undoubtedly one of the major songs of the British Invasion period. The hits continued for the Animals until 1966, when the soul of Burdon was psychedelicized and the rifts between band members could not be mended. Burdon emerged with a New Animals in 1967, and later joined WAR, where he continued to find chart success. Chas Chandler became a respected producer and manager, who most notably discovered Jimi Hendrix.

One of my favorite Animals' recordings is a live show with blues legend Sonny Boy Williamson, recorded December 30, 1963. The Fuel label released this on CD in 2000 under the title The Animals: Taken Alive! Check it out for a glimpse into their crazed, energetic live shows!

(References: British Beat by Chris May and Tim Phillips, Tapestry of Delights by Vernon Joynson, and Way Beyond Compare by John C. Winn. My scan of The Animals Is Here EP from the liner notes to The Animals: A's, B's and EP's.)

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Hollywood Squares

The Rolling Stones' first television appearance in America was an unpleasant event for them, unfortunately. They were booked to record 3 songs at ABC studios for Dean Martin's old-fashioned variety show, The Hollywood Palace. The Stones immediately noticed a "strange atmosphere" on the set. According to Bill Wyman, "We were treated more like a comedy act than a band....Dean Martin, who appeared to be drunk throughout the show, persistently tried to get cheap laughs at our expense. 'Their hair isn't long, it's just smaller foreheads and higher eyebrows'" (Wyman 124).

The Stones' US Tour manager, Bob Bonis recalls, "Dean Martin was a little out of it and made an awful lot of fun of the band. The producer gave them money to go out and buy themselves uniforms. We said, 'They don't wear uniforms.' Dean Martin and I got into an argument, and Keith was about to pop him one with his guitars" (124). This sort of treatment was not atypical while they were visiting in June of '64--the band received quite a bit of contempt from many adults, including police officers, interspersed with the adoration of screaming girls.

At least on this first visit to the US, the Stones were afforded the opportunity to record at the legendary Chess Studios in Chicago--certainly hallowed ground for these English lads--and meet heroes such as Muddy Waters, Chuck Berry, Buddy Guy and Willie Dixon!
(Reference: Rolling With The Stones by Bill Wyman)

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

And Here I'll Stay...

Here are two clips of Mersey Beat legends Gerry and the Pacemakers--the first band to achieve the feat of having their first 3 singles skyrocket to the number one position in the UK charts: "How Do You Do It," "I Like It," and the Rogers and Hammerstein standard, "You'll Never Walk Alone," featured in the second clip. Their fourth single stalled at number 2, kept out of the top position by the Searchers' version of "Needles and Pins." In the US it seems Gerry and the Pacemakers are most remembered for "Ferry Cross The Mersey" and "Don't Let the Sun Catch You Crying."

Gerry and the Pacemakers began as a 3 piece skiffle band with the copyright-infringing moniker "The Mars Bars." (They were sued by the candy company!) By 1960, Gerry Marsden (guitar, vocals), Les Chadwick (bass) and Freddie Marsden (drums) were performing as Gerry and the Pacemakers, opening for Gene Vincent in Liverpool and heading for a residency at Hamburg's infamous Top Ten Club. Soon the band had pilfered pianist/saxophonist Les Maguire from another Merseyside act, the Undertakers. By January of 1962, the Beatles' impresario, Brian Epstein, had taken notice of their immense popularity and became their manager. (Notice Gerry's response to a question about Mr. Epstein in the first clip!)

"You Never Walk Alone," although voted a "miss" on Juke Box Jury, soon became the anthem of the Liverpool Football Club at Anfield. Marsden recalls, "They played it at the game about six times and then they all started singing it and it's carried on, which is great. The first time I was there when they sang it, I went all goose-pimply. I still do" (Leigh 151). In 1989 when 96 Liverpool FC supporters died in a tragic human crush at Hillsborough stadium in Sheffield, Marsden, Paul McCartney, and other Liverpool musicians recorded a new version of the song, donating all proceeds to the families of the victims.

Gerry and the Pacemakers were unable to transition to the new sounds emerging in the mid to late Sixties, and thus they disbanded in October of 1966. I am particularly fond of their second to last single, "Girl on a Swing" which didn't chart on either side of the Atlantic; a shame, actually. You can find it on volume 7 of Rhino's essential nine volume British Invasion: History of British Rock set.

(The first clip was encoded by me from my copy of Sounds of the Sixties, and the second was found on YouTube by Invader bassist Alan Manning.)

(References: Let's Go Down The Cavern by Spencer Leigh and Pete Frame; Tapestry of Delights by Vernon Joynson; Wikipedia)

Thursday, August 14, 2008

The First Glimpse: January 3, 1964

The Jack Paar Program

Contrary to popular belief, the Beatles' February 9, 1964, live appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show was not America's first glimpse of John, Paul, George, and Ringo in action on an entertainment show. On January 3rd, a taped performance of the Beatles was aired on The Jack Paar Program. Paar used this footage as an opportunity to mock the Beatles' success in England, especially the frenzied audiences' reactions. (Prior to this, the Beatles had been featured on CBS Evening News with Walker Cronkite.)

Apparently, Beatles manager Brian Epstein was furious that the BBC had sold this footage to a rival of Sullivan's, since Epstein had assured Sullivan exclusive rights to the Beatles' first televised US appearance. Epstein even threatened to cancel the Beatles' future BBC radio shows, and Sullivan hastily phoned London in an attempt to cancel the Beatles' performances on his show! Thankfully, Sullivan calmed down; imagine what it would have been like if the Beatles were never on The Ed Sullivan Show...I shudder to think!
(Reference: The Beatles Are Coming! by Bruce Spizer, p. 88)