Mar 192011

Mention of Jim Ford and Joe South recently reminded me that I’ve been meaning to write something about Dallas Frazier, who is another one of those artists who was adept at blending country and soul. Frazier is the man who wrote “Mohair Sam,” which was a big hit for Charlie Rich.

This is the record that is part of Rock Lore, because the time the Beatles met Elvis, he was obsessed with it and supposedly played it constantly during their visit, even playing along on the bass. I’d never seen this clip before today, but here’s Rich singing it on Shindig in 1965:

He looks so uncomfortable there, but here is singing it again during his ’70s phase.

He was one of the biggest stars in Nashville at that time, and he’s gotten much less stage-shy. Nice shirt.

Jan 202011

The other day a Townsman recalled my long-held belief that Graham Parker & The Rumour could have done a killer version of Maxine Nightengale‘s “Right Back Where We Started From.” This is one of probably 2 dozen nerdy thoughts, suggestions, or questions for favorite artists that I’ve carried around since my teens. In my ridiculous world, the thinking is, Should I ever run into beloved Artist X, I’m going to have this one potentially interesting thing to say to him or her. I figure, wouldn’t it be cool if I could meet a favorite artist and actually have a sincere conversation starter lined up? Chances are I’d still come off as big a salivating fanboy as if I had nothing ready to say, like the time a friend introduced me to dB’s’ drummer Will Rigby, but a fanboy can dream.

Shortly after being reminded of my One potentially interesting thing to say to Graham Parker, I contacted Friend of the Hall—and friend and dedicated guitarist to Parker—Martin Belmont to make my suggestion. Graham and some other members of The Rumour played a small show at New York’s Lakeside Lounge last October to celebrate a documentary being made on the band. (Martin talked about this in his excellent Rock Town Hall interview!) In case they play together again, I figured my suggested cover might be taken into consideration.

I don’t think Martin will mind my sharing his reply: Continue reading »

Dec 082008

I love pub rock. There’s no clear definition of the style, but it was a mid-70s British phenomenon, a back-to-basics trend that was never wildly popular, a precursor to punk, and many pub rock musicians carried on into the punk era. Brinsley Schwarz is probably the best-known exponent of the style, which I think of as a mixture of black and white musical genres – rock, R&B, country, folk, and pop. The conversation between black and white is what rock & roll is all about to me, and pub rock was a peculiarly British take on that conversation.

I’m going to write an irregular series about pub rock here, and I want to start with a man who could be called one of the progenitors of the style. He was also a player in what could be called the secret history of rock & roll.

Jim Ford is one of those legends that almost no one knows about. If he’s known at all it’s because he wrote the song “Niki Hoeky,” which was recorded most famously by Aretha Franklin on the Lady Soul album. Here’s Bobbie Gentry doing “Niki Hoeky” on the Smothers Brothers TV show. Note the authentic Cajun mise en scene:

Ford’s other claim to fame is that Nick Lowe has cited him as his biggest influence. But let me back up a bit and give a little background on Ford himself.
Continue reading »

Feb 212008

I have bemoaned for years, and Mr. Mod can attest (say Amen, brother), the loss of Nick Lowe‘s masterpieces, Labor of Lust and Pure Pop for Now People (originally Jesus of Cool in the UK) to the great digital abyss.

Last time I checked these discs were released in the ’90s and then vanished, showing up in used shops for as much as $89! Puh-leeze.

But you can bemoan a lot less as Yep Rock Records has just released Jesus of Cool (with the original track line-up) and “10 extra non-LP singles, EP sides and compilation cuts that lead up to Jesus.”

AND IT’S ON EMUSIC!!! Sweet. Here’s a bonus cut, originally released as part of the excellent Bowi ep.

Nick Lowe, “Shake That Rat”

: Pure Pop for Now People and Jesus of Cool are two of my favorite album titles and they’re for the same album! Has any other album come even close to having two drastically different release titles that are both this bitchin’ and spot-on?

Feb 192008

No dogder, this Roger!

May I begin by sharing with our Townspeople what a thrill it was for me to chat with producer/engineer Roger Bechirian! As a teenager, while intently studying the liner notes of the records that first made me feel as if I’d finally hit on “my” music, music made for me and my bandmate friends, his name kept cropping up. My friends and I never saw a picture of him, and we still don’t know exactly how his surname is pronounced, but this Roger Bechirian fellow was held in very high regard among our band of nobodies.

If I may, I’ll continue in the first person plural, because that’s how strong my love is over this guy’s work – and beside, my old friends and fellow Townsmen, Andyr and Chickenfrank, contributed to this interview. Our introduction to Bechirian was as the engineer on all those great Nick Lowe productions for Elvis Costello and The Attractions. Shortly thereafter, we saw he had his own thing going as producer of The Undertones, the band in our wildest, humble dreams we thought we could emulate.

With Costello, Bechirian produced the one Squeeze album we all agreed sounded great and steered clear of the stiff, awkward moments on their earlier albums. Then we noted his name on the credits for what we thought was The dBs‘ last great single, “Judy”. This guy not only engineered my all-time favorite album, Costello’s Get Happy!!, but he produced one of my favorite overlooked gems for listening to in my bedroom with the shades drawn, The Undertones’ Positive Touch. As Elvis would eventually have an album produced by George Martin engineer Geoff Emerick, we fantasized having an album produced by Nick’s right-hand man. Considering the likely disappointment (for him!) resulting from this fantasized collaboration, his taking the time to answer the tough questions from Rock Town Hall is more than enough wish fulfillment for anyone to bear… But enough of this ass-kissing, no matter how sincere it is! Let’s get on with the questions.

RTH: I’ve read that you were born in India and moved to England when you were a boy. When did you get into music and how did you get into recording?

RB: There was always music on in the house. My father was a big Jazz fan, and my sister would get all the latest hits from the UK and the States. I also played piano, and would spend hours making up my own tunes. We had a tape recorder at home, and I soon started making up my own sound montages by editing various recordings… I did the same thing as you, scouring album credits, looking for the engineering and studio credits. I got my first job training as a mastering engineer, cutting vinyl!

I was so opinionated, and couldn’t stop myself from telling people what I thought they should be doing!

Jan 022008

While listening to (what else) Elvis Costello and The Attractions’ Get Happy!! on New Year’s Eve I pinpointed exactly what made the greatest of that great string of the band’s albums: Nick Lowe’s production. And it’s not so much what he did technically – the drum sound, the choice use of effects, the mic choice – but how he decided to capture the band for each album: that is, he captured the sound of the band. All the Lowe productions through Trust feature the full sound of both EC and The Attractions. The style of music is in no way similar, but scope is similar to what was captured on albums by The Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, and so many more great albums that I’d sound even more cliched and pathetic by listing them.

Elvis Costello & The Attractions w/Martin Belmont (w/o Steve Nieve), "Little Sister" (Live at the Hope & Anchor)

Imperial Bedroom has the same type of open scope, allowing for the listener to chooose to focus on any one of the instruments. Of course that album was produced by a Beatles’ engineer. Compare the Lowe-produced Costello albums and Imperial Bedroom with all the rest: Costello’s voice way out front and the rest of the musicians kind of canned in the background. On albums like Punch the Clock and Spike I might as well have been listening to Elvis Costello and The Association. The best of the non-Lowe-produced bunch, King of America, also sticks the musicians under glass. Quick: Name your favorite lick in a song from King of America.
Continue reading »


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