Sep 082020

No need to shoehorn Motown acts into some Rushmore; here they get their very own.

Here are my ground rules but feel free to go ahead and make your own.

This is Motown, not soul more generally, not Stax/Volt, not Philly International. If you are on the Motown Rushmore then your bones had to be made at Motown.

We all know that Berry Gordy, the Funk Brothers, Holland-Dozier-Holland, and a bunch of other behind the scenes people had as much to do with Motown’s success as any act did. Maybe they will get their own Rushmore one of these days but for now, for this Rushmore, these are the acts (individuals or groups) whose names were on the discs.

I’ll offer up the act I think is the Beatles of Motown, the undisputed act that has to be carved on the Mount – Marvin Gaye. Singer, songwriter, sweet soul-pop love songs, the duets, and the pièce de résistance of “What’s Goin’ On.” A song so magnificent we have to present it twice

With James Jamerson:

Who shares the Mount with Marvin?

Sep 012020

Following up on the Mount Rushmore of Rock & Roll: British Invasion, which American bands held the line against the invaders, trying to champion the rock & roll that those British groups had co-opted from the United States?

I will propose that the Beatles equivalent for this Mount Rushmore is The Beach Boys. Yes, I know they had an album’s worth of hits before the Fabs ever met Ed Sullivan, but I think that makes them even more deserving. They were at the top of the heap, they took the challengers’ best punch, lost the championship, but came back stronger than ever.

Here’s a Beach Boys deep cut that is one of my BB favorites:

I don’ think there is a counterpart to the Rolling Stones, but I think there are more worthy contenders for the remaining spots than there were for the British Invasion mount.

Who would you put up there? Anyone disagree with me about the Wilsons & family?

Aug 242020

Looking back in the RTH archives I see where there were some threads choosing assorted Mount Rushmores of Rock & Roll. Let’s resurrect that now with this British Invasion version.

What four acts would be on the British Invasion Mount Rushmore? Would anyone argue that The Beatles are not on it? Or The Rolling Stones? If you want to, proceed at your own risk.

Ah, but what are the other two?

I say The Kinks have to be number three. I think it can be creditably argued that “You Really Got Me” alone justifies the selection.

Add in whatever else you want – the other early hits, the string of impeccable albums from Face To Face up to Lola Versus Powerman & the Moneygoround – and they have to be carved on, although I’m afraid Ray’s gapped teeth could cause sculpting problems.

But what’s the fourth. The Who were just a little late. The Animals would bring something very different to the Mount but were they really that good, that impactful, that lasting?

And how about the bands with an album’s worth of great pop hits like The Dave Clark 5 or The Hollies or even Herman’s Hermits?

I hope this will be the first of many such threads. Feel free to define your own Mt. Rushmore and get it up here. But first, argue for or against my three locks and tell us your fourth.

Aug 052020

Was the German true stereo pressing of Magical Mystery Tour.

No, I’m just kidding.

The most expensive record I ever bought was a live album called June 1, 1974, by Kevin Ayers, John Cale, Eno & Nico.

I bought it in 1974 or early 1975 at E.J. Korvette’s in Springfield. I didn’t understand why an album with that title was available at that point in the discounted rack. I was totally unfamiliar with Kevin Ayers. I knew Cale from the Velvet Underground and the same with Nico, but knew nothing of their solo work. I knew Eno was a member of Roxy Music; I knew a bit about them but, again, nothing of his solo career (which at that point had only just started).

I take flyers on albums all the time now, but it was unusual then; there wasn’t a lot of disposable income and each purchase had to count. But the price tag on this album was $1.99 and so was a small risk to learn about Cale, Eno, & Nico. And Kevin Ayers, whoever he was.

But wait a minute…$1.99…most expensive?!?!

Here’s how that makes sense; here’s the sense in which I mean it.

I don’t think there is any other album in my collection which has so directly led to so many other purchases.

It started off with two Eno songs, “Driving Me Backwards” and “Baby’s On Fire.” I loved them. Then Cale’s version of “Heartbreak Hotel.” Wow, great! And then Nico’s cover of “The End.” The remaining five songs were Kevin Ayers.’

This is my favorite track from the album and my favorite ever Kevin Ayers song.

This show was an Ayers gig at the Rainbow Theatre in London, to which he invited Cale and Nico. Cale brought along Eno. Robert Wyatt and Mike Oldfield were also guests, sitting in with the band.

Ayers was the real revelation of this album for me. I immediately loved him. I’ve since bought all his solo albums as well as the first Soft Machine album; he was a founding member of that band but only stayed for the first album. I still love John Cale and have bought everything he has put out. And I was definitely in for Eno’s pop albums and do have a few of the early ambient ones including the collaborations with Robert Fripp. Add in a couple of Nico albums.

Those Ayers albums and the Eno ones were all imports, pricey at the time.

So, this $1.99 album led directly to about 80 albums being purchased. Yes, it was a mighty expensive album. But it was a lot of great music.

What’s the most expensive album – in this way – in your collection?

Jul 232020

This video has someone, could be anyone, and his list of the Top 20 Debut Rock Albums of All Time. I watched it so you don’t have to.

His criteria for selection:

  • Songs, usually big hits, that became important for the rest of the band’s career
  • Create/inspire a new genre
  • Consistent from start to finish

You’ll notice he actually has 22 songs, because he couldn’t narrow it down to 20.


Extend That Metaphor

 Posted by
Jul 152020

I’ve been listening to a lot of old soul music lately (not an unusual occurrence) and happened to have a sequence of three metaphor songs in a short spell. All three are great greats songs from the ‘60s, and it’s easier to just put up the YouTube videos than to try and explain in words what I mean by this type of song.

First up is Mel & Tim’s classic “Backfield In Motion.” Sports infractions are the metaphor for cheating in love. The metaphor covers football (“offside & holdin’”), baseball (“balkin’”), boxing (“you hit me below the belt”), and basketball (“double dribble”). This video has all the lyrics.

Then there’s 100 Proof Aged In Soul’s sole hit “Somebody’s Been Sleeping.” This was one of the early hits on the Hot Wax label, formed by the team of Holland-Dozier-Holland, after they left Motown in 1968. Here the metaphor is the Goldilocks & The Three Bears fable. And it’s an interesting metaphor in that it is both metaphor and not metaphor. Somebody has been sleeping in his bed! Here’s the lyrics video for this one.

By the way, this is the album version, which I didn’t hear until many years after this was a hit in 1970. When I first heard this version I definitely preferred the single edit; now I love the album version and don’t want to hear the song without the instrumental break that comes 2 minutes in – a minute and a half of pure funky soul horns.

The third is “Agent Double-O-Soul”, Edwin Starr’s first hit from 1965. This was on the Ric-Tic label, which was bought by Berry Gordy a few years later. Bond, James Bond is the metaphor here. Here’s a great (albeit lip-synced) performance video from a 1960s teen dance program; sorry, I couldn’t find one with lyrics.


Hero or Villain?

 Posted by
Jul 092020

Following assorted links I came to this interview with Chris Frantz, who has an autobiography coming out later this month:

Very interesting with, unsurprisingly, much to say about David Byrne and his refusal to reunite Talking Heads. And there are lots of great video clips – from 20 minutes of the three-piece Talking Heads at CBGBs in 1975 through to their only “reunion” for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame up to Byrne’s American Utopia on Broadway. I’ll let you decide which ones to watch rather than embed something here.

Are artists like Byrne or Robbie Robertson or Paul Weller (to name two more that come to mind quickly) heroes or villains? Sticking with Byrne, he owes his success to Talking Heads; he surely wouldn’t have a hit Broadway show without that on his CV. Does he owe it to Frantz, Tina Weymouth, and Jerry Harrison to reunite for the type of tour Frantz mentions in the interview for a “treasure trove” of money? Should he at some point have “taken one for the team that used to be”? Or is he to be admired for walking away from a successful band to pursue his other artistic ambitions and not looking back? (As a side point, I wonder if Byrne wishes he had taken that treasure trove given the shut down of Broadway; maybe his Utopia is gone for good.)


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