Saturday, October 21, 2017

Louisiana Blues - The Best Louisiana Sounds

Amen Corner

Amen Corner was formed in Cardiff, Wales in 1966. The line up consisted of Andy Fairweather Low (lead singer and guitarist), Derek "Blue" Weaver (keyboards –former member of Brother John & the Witnesses), Neil Jones (lead guitar). Clive Taylor (bass), Dennis Bryon (drums –former member of Brother John & the Witnesses), Mike Smith and Allen Jones (tenor and baritone saxophones). The pop group had sufficient strength and depth to play rock, blues and R&B. After they built up a local following the group moved its base to London in 1967 and was signed by Deram (subsidiary of Decca) then later the Immediate label. Between 1967 and 1968 Amen Corner scored six UK hits. These included "Gin House Blues," (which was released as Gin House), "Bend Me, Shape Me," and "High in the Sky" for Deram, and the number one hit "(If Paradise Is) Half as Nice" for Immediate Records.

Once the hits had dried up the group split up in 1970 and the individual members pursued other careers. Mike Smith and Allen Jones (the brass section) joined Andy Bown (Herd) in Judas Jump.

Andy formed Fair Weather with Dennis Bryon (drums), Clive Taylor (bass), and Derek “Blue” Weaver (keyboards) and they had a hit single, “Natural Sinner” in 1970.

Fair Weather split the following year and Andy took time out from the industry for a few years before returning as a solo artist in 1974. "Reggae Tune" and "Wide Eyed and Legless," reached the UK charts but as the eightes came to an end Andy found himself as a musician and singer by other prominent British musicians, notably ex-Pink Floyd leader Roger Waters, Bill Wyman and Pete Townsend.

He toured Japan with George Harrison and Eric Clapton, eventually joining Slow Hand’s support band. In 2007 Andy still pursues a solo career. After the break-up of Fair Weather Derek "Blue" Weaver joined the Strawbs replacing their former keyboard player, Rick Wakeman had left to join Yes. Weaver's organ and Mellotron added significantly to the band's sound can be heard on the album Grave New World.

Their next album, Bursting at the Seams contained two British hit singles as well as gaining serious airplay in America. In 1973 Weaver left the group to become a session musician. He toured with Mott the Hoople on their 1974 U.S. tour, and soon after joined Dennis Byron as session musicians supporting the Bee Gees. Blue Weaver replaced Barry Gibbon keyboards and his synthesized bass sound with heavier rhythmic texture augmented the trio’s new sound on songs such as "Jive Talkin'" and "Nights on Broadway."

Weaver co-wrote with the brothers and became an integral element of their music before leaving in 1982. A brief return to the Strawbs before he went back to session work, Blue Weaver has played on records by Stevie Wonder, the Pet Shop Boys, the Damned, and Chicago, as well as on numerous film soundtracks and commercials. Dennis Bryon also became successful session musician playing with his old Amen Corner keyboard player at Criteria Studios in Miami, Florida. More recently Alan Jones formed the new Amen Corner and they regularly tour the retro circuit.

Worth a listen
Amen Corner
Gin House Blues (1967)
Bend Me Shape Me (1968)
High In The Sky (1968)
(If Paradise Is) Half As Nice (1969)
Hello Susie (1969)

Fair Weather
Natural Sinner (1970)

Andy Fairweather Low
Reggie Tune (1974)
Wide eyed and leg less (1974)

The Strawbs
Lay Down (1972)
Part of the Union (1973)

Bee Gees
Jive Talkin' (1975)
Nights on Broadway (1975)

Friday, October 20, 2017

A brief history of Capitol Records (1942- 1979)

Capitol Records was founded by Jonny Mercer (songwriter) in 1942. His business partners were Buddy DeSylva (film producer), and Glenn Wallichs, the owner of the Music City. Music City was opened in 1940 and was the largest music store in LA . It was located on the corner of Sunset and Vine and Capitol Records had a storefront office in the building. Johnny Mercer was committed to give the Capitol artists freedom to grow and expand and this new, fresh and revolutionary approach to recording soon too proved very effective. Glenn Wallichs ran the business while Johnny Mercer found the artists and supervised their artistic output. Buddy DeSylva himself a noted songwriter also headed up production at Paramount Studios and provided the initial funding. At this time RCA-Victor, Columbia and Decca were the giants of the US recording industry and all based in NY whereas Capitol Records provided a competitive alternative centred on the west coast. The first artists to record for Capital were Paul Whitemna and his band, Margaret Whiting, Martha Tilton (The Angels Cried, 1942), and Ella Mae Morse. Paul Whiteman recorded Capitol's first release in 1942 with instrumentals "I Found a New Baby" and "The General Jumped At Dawn." Later lyrics to commemorate the D-Day invasion were written by Larry Orenstein who was the singer with the band. The company produced records in 78 rpm and Ella Mae Morse gave Capitol their first major success with "Cow Cow Boogie."

By 1946 Capitol had sold 42 million records and was established as one of the major record producers in the US. A very successful children’s record library which included stories and music was introduced. The novelty records were issued with full color booklets which children could follow as they listened to the recorded stories. Alan W. Livingston created Bozo the Clown and the recordings were voiced by Pinto Colvig who also was Walt Disney’s Goofy. Other successes came with Sparky’s Magic Piano and Rusty in Orchestrville.

In 1949 Capitol Records released 331/3 format long playing records and the company also expanded to include a second studio in NY and a Canadian branch. To begin with Capitol Records of Canada was run by independent businessman W. Lockwood Miller but Capitol Records broke away five years later to form Capitol Record Distributors of Canada Limited. The company was eventually acquired by EMI when it bought Capitol Records in 1955 and an A&R department independent of the American company was established to promote talent for the Canadian market. Anne Murray proved to be one of the more famous signings.

In the early days Capitol Records also had developed mobile recording equipment and would visit Southern Cities like New Orleans to record local artists. In 1950 Capitol took over the KHJ Studios on Melrose Avenue next to the lot of Paramount Pictures. Meantime in England the Electric and Musical Industries (EMI) company was created in April 1931 when the British Gramophone Company and the Columbia Graphophone Company merged. In the same year it opened state of the art recording studios at 3 Abbey Road, North London.

By the mid fifties Capitol was the fourth largest American record company and EMI acquired 96% share of the company for $8.5 million. Keen to establish a similar resource as Abbey Road studios, EMI commissioned a new studio in Hollywood. The Capitol Records Tower was designed by Welton Becket and was a 13 story earthquake resistant tower made from reinforced concrete. The building was constructed in 1956 and stands on the corner of Hollywood Boulevard and 1730 Vine Street and combined offices and recording studios. The rectangular ground floor houses the recording department which includes the famous echo chamber engineered by Les Paul and surrounds the tower. The Capitol Tower recording studios were capable of high fidelity recording and stereophonic sound. Ironically the tower itself resembles a stack of 45s on a turntable with the wide curved awnings over windows on each story and the tall spike emerging from the top of the building. The blinking light atop the tower spelt out the word "Hollywood" in Morse code and was formerly turned on by Lyla Morse. Lyla was the granddaughter of Samuel Morse who invented Morse Code.

Capital had added a number of popular crooners throughout the fifties, including: Les, Baxter, Bing Crosby, Les Paul, Stan Kenton, Les Brown, Tex Williams and Nat King Cole. The Capitol Tower soon became known as "The House That Nat Built" due to the vast amounts of records and merchandise Nat "King" Cole sold for the company.

Other luminaries to sign for Capitol records were: Frank Sinatra, Judy Garland, The Andrews Sisters, Jackie Gleason, Jane Froman, Ray Anthony, Peggy Lee, Dean Martin, Andy Griffith, Shirley Bassey, The Kingston Trio, Dean Martin, The Four Freshmen, Al Martino, Dinah Shore and Nancy Wilson. Captitol were keen to harness the new phenomena of rock’n’roll and signed Gene Vincent.

The first album recorded in the tower was Frank Sinatra Conducts Tone Poems of Color. Between 1954-1962, Frank Sinatra made 19 albums with Capitol with arrangers Axel Stordahl and Nelson Riddle. One of his most acclaimed was In the Wee Small Hours.

In 1957 EMI merged their Angel Records (known for classical music) with Capitol in 1957 and continued to record memorable classics by various orchestras including: William Steinberg and the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, Leopold Stokowski and the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, and Sir Thomas Beecham and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, among many others.

Capitol Records also released some of the most notable original cast albums and motion picture soundtrack albums ever made. Between 1955 and 1956, they released the soundtrack albums of Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals, Oklahoma!, Carousel, and The King and I on mono. Then in 1958 they re-released the three soundtracks in stereo which became best sellers all over again. Another big seller was the original cast album of The Music Man which was released in 1957 and the company continued with musical soundtracks throughout the sixties.

They also specialised in recording the spoken word with an immensely successful recording of the soundtrack of Franco Zeffirelli's Romeo and Juliet. The album featured not only Nino Rota's score, but large chunks of Shakespeare's dialogue.

In the early sixties after EMI signed The Beatles to their Parlophone label there was some major resistance from executives at Capitol to release their singles in the US. The earliest releases of the Fab Four were on the Vee-Jay label but eventually Capitol took them on. Unsure the original UK recordings were suited to the US market Capitol’s producers significantly altered the content of the Beatles albums adding equalization to brighten the sound, and piping the recordings through the Capitol echo chamber, located underneath the parking lots outside the Capitol Tower. In the UK the Beatles had released With the Beatles but when this was released in the US as Meet the Beatles!, and five of the original tracks were removed and replaced by the band's first American hit single, which consisted of "I Want To Hold Your Hand," "I Saw Her Standing There," and "This Boy".

Capitol also released "duophonic" stereo versions even although the original master was monophonic. Capitol engineers split the single master monaural track into two, boosted the bass on one track, boosted treble on the other track and combined them slightly out of phase to produce a "fake stereo" release. This duophonic process meant that the Beatles' American fans would often hear a slightly different version of the song from that heard by the rest of the world. Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band marked the first American album to be released by Capitol in its original form.

In the seventies, Capitol launched two alternative labels: EMI America Records and EMI Manhattan Records. New artists included April Wine, Blondie, Burning Spear, Buzzcocks, David Bowie, Kim Carnes, Rosanne Cash, Natalie Cole, Sammy Hagar, Heart, John Hiatt, The Knack, Maze, The Raspberries, Minnie Riperton, Diana Ross, Bob Seger, The Specials, Ten Wheel Drive, The Stranglers, Tavares, George Thorogood, Wings and The Persuasions.

In 1979, Capitol was made part of the EMI Music Worldwide division. In the following decades Capitol added artists in a variety of genres including popular music groups and singers, punk/hard rock groups, heavy metal bands and eventually rap groups.

Worth a listen:
Paul Whiteman
I Found a New Baby (1942)

Ella Mae Morse
Cow Cow Boogie (1942)

Stan Kenton Orchestra
Eager Beaver (1943)

Nat King Cole
Straighten Up and Fly Right (1943)

Martha Tilton
I’ll walk alone (1944)

Margaret Whiting
All through the day (1946)

Bozo the Clown
Bozo at the curcus (1946)

Sparky’s Magic Piano (1947)

Tex Williams
Smoke! Smoke! Smoke! (That Cigarette) (1947)

Les Paul and Mary Ford
Tennessee Waltz (1950)

The Four Freshmen
Mr. B's Blues (1950)

Les Brown with Connee Boswell
I Don't Know (1950)

Jackie Gleason
My Funny Valentine (1952)

Al Martino
Here in my heart (1952)

Ray Anthony Orchestra
The Bunny Hop (1952)

Les Baxter
Ruby (1953)

Jane Froman
I believe (1953)

Judy Garland
After You've Gone (1955)

Bing Crosby
True Love (1956)

Gene Vincent
Be-Bop-A-Lula (1956)

Dean Martin
Memories are made of this (1956)

Frank Sinatra
All the way (1957)

The Andrews Sisters
One mistake (1958)

The Kingston Trio
Tom Dooley (1958)

Andy Griffith
St John’s Infirmary

Nancy Wilson
Guess Who I Saw Today (1960)

Dinah Shore
I Ain't Down Yet (1960)

Shirley Bassey
Let’s face the music (1962)

The Beatles
This boy (1963)

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Brief history of Instrumental Hits (1952 -1969)

Prior to the introduction of the singer with the band, dance music was primarily instrumental. Then as microphones improved vocalisation became more popular and when during the war years union action prevented, card carrying musicians from recording the rise of the crooner resulted with the decline of the popular instrumental. Cool School Jazz continued to promote instrumental music but this was considered too complicated for vocals. In the early 50s, Earl Bostic, a jazz saxophonist had two instrumentals hits with Harlem Nocturne and Earl's Rhumboogie.

In 1952, bluesman, Little Walter had a major hit with Juke and a year later Red Prysock was riding high with Wiggles. Another bluesman to chart with an instrumental was Jimmy Reed with "Roll and Rhumba" (1953).

The two main factors likely to have contributed to the reintroduction of the instrumental were better amplification and the continued popularity of dance music. Although Rock ‘n’ roll would became more associated with the electric guitar, throughout the fifties other lead instruments featured. Englishman, Eddie Calvert had an international hit with the trumpet called Oh Mein Papa (1954), he repeated his chart success a year later with Cherry Pink and Apple Blossom White.

Piano instrumentals were also popular with Liberace in the US and Winifred Atwell in the UK with Lets have ding dong (1955) and Poor People of Paris (1956).

As the origins of rock’n’roll were in R&B, jump blues, and country boogie many of the early musicians like, Joe Houston (saxophone), and Speedy West (steel guitar) were influential in the style of music that would eventually follow. Bill Doggett had a major instrumental hit in 1956 with “Honky Tonk” which featured Clifford Scott on sax.

Another saxophonist to have a major hit was Bill Justis. He worked for Sam Phillips at Sun Records where he recorded music for himself as well as arranged the music for Jerry Lee Lewis, Roy Orbison, Johnny Cash and Charlie Rich. In 1957, he released "Raunchy" which rocketed up the charts. It was common at the time to have cover versions of the originals released at the same time with the better efforts competing for chart position. Ernie Freeman released a cover version of Raunchy which became a respectable hit in US. He later joined the Ernie Fields Orchestra which became the house band for Rendezvous records in 1958.

In 1959 the Ernie Fields Orchestra had an international hit with an R&B version of Glenn Miller’s In The Mood. In 1962 and with a few lineup changes the Orchestra became B. Bumble and the Stingers and had a couple of great chart success with Bumble Boogie and Nut Rocker.

Steadily guitar music began to predominate and the Virtues had hit in 1958 with a rock reworking of Arthur "Guitar Boogie" Smith's country hit "Guitar Boogie" under the title "Guitar Boogie Shuffle". The instrumental became a major hit in the U.S. In the same year guitarist Duane Eddy proved a major influence on rock guitarists. He had a string of guitar hits including: Rebel Rouser (1958), Forty miles of bad road (1959), Shazam (1960), Peter Gunn (1960) and Because they’re young (1960). The added commercial appeal of instrumental music was it could be appreciated by non-English speakers and at that time the overseas record markets were growing.

One of the early luminaries of the electric guitar was Link Wray who started off playing country in Lucky Wray & the Lazy Pine Wranglers (later known as Palomino Ranch Hands). He lost a lung due to TB and was unable to sing, so began to develop his guitar solos. Link developed the use of feedback with guitar fuzz and distortion and this would eventually become more associated with musicians like Jimi Hendrix and Pete Townsend. However in 1958 Link recorded “Rumble,” which despite being banned from radio stations became a major hit and a milestone for guitar players.

Meanwhile in the UK novelty acts like Lord Rockingham's XI (there were actually 13 musicians) had a number one hit with 'Hoots Mon' (1958). The Fireballs, featured a distinctive guitarist called George Tomsco, and the group pioneered the guitar/guitar/bass/drums configuration, paving the way for The Ventures, The Shadows, and the surf music scene. The Fireballs had a big hit with Fireball and were one of a few instrumental bands that successfully transitioned into vocal music, going as far as having the biggest hit record Sugar Shack in 1963.

In the years between the rock & roll explosion and the Beatles, instrumental performers were responsible for some of the most exciting and macho music. Other guitarists like Santo & Johnny (Sleep Walk, 1959) and Lonnie Mack made their mark but so too did drummers, Sandy Nelson (Let there be drums, 1961), Preston Epps (Bongo Rock, 1960), and Cozy Cole; organists, Dave "Baby" Cortez (The Happy Organ, 1959); saxophone-driven combos Johnny & the Hurricanes (Crossfire and Red River Rock, 1959) and The Champs' Tequila; and even bass players like Bill Black (Don’t be cruel, 1960).

The UK saw a revival of piano rag with Russ Conway and Side Saddle (1959), and a continuation with comedic instrumentals typified by The Piltdown Men and Brontasaurus Stomp (1960).

By 1960, The Ventures perfected the guitar group sound and had hit after hit with tracks like Walk don’t run. Their precise reverberated guitar work was a major influence on others including the Shadows Apache (1960) in the UK: and the Atlantics in Australia Bombora (1963).

Dick Dale gained a loyal following for his quick playing of Middle Eastern influenced music using exotic scales. He used a Fender Telecaster guitar and developed a distinctive reverb-heavy sound which would become the surf sound. Let's Go Trippin'/Del-Tone Rock (1961) was a double A side hit for Dick and others soon followed i.e. The Surfaris' Wipe Out (1963) and the Chantays' Pipeline (1963). The close harmonies of Jan and Dean and the Beach Boys would later develop the unique vocal surf sound of the sixties.

A resurgence in Moldy Fig music (traditional New Orleans jazz) in the UK saw Acker Bilk top the charts with his clarinet inspired Stranger on the shore (1962), Kenny Ball also had a jazz inspired Midnight in Moscow. Perhaps the most famous cross over jazz pop success of the period was Dave Bruebeck’s Take Five.

Producer Joe Meek in the UK worked with The Tornados (known as the Tornadoes in the US) and had an international hit with Telstar (1962). This single featured both electric organ and electric bass, the same sound would two decade later become an inspiration for all electronic musicians.

Arguable the most seminal development in instrumental rock came from Lonnie Mack's version of Chuck Berry's Memphis, which was a hit in 1963. The showcase of virtuoso guitar used both the blues scale and distortion which would inspire many of the developing blues-rock guitarists like Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughan.

Prior to the soul era, Boots Randolph had a massive hit with Yakety Sax (1963); and in the UK, Sounds Incorporated (one of Brian Epstein’s groups) proved popular with their version of the William Tell Overture (1964).

Following the British Invasion instrumental hits came mostly from the R&B world with notably artists like Booker T. & the MG's, the Mar-Keys and Bar-Keys all producing excellent works. The most popular and influential instrumental soul combo of the 60s was Booker T. & the MG's who was the resident studio band for Stax/Volt label.

Instrumentals became less popular among pop musicians simply because the musical genre received less radio play as preference was given to the new sound of pop groups. The Shadows continued to make instrumental hits and the Stones would very occasionally slip an instrumental track onto an album. The Nice (later to become ELP) had a hit with America which feature the electric organ in 1968 but the last great instrumental from the 60s came from Fleetwood Mac in 1969. Peter Green, guitar virtuoso wrote the guitar-based instrumental Albatros (1969) which became a worldwide success,

Worth a listen:
Little Walter
Juke (1952)

Red Prysock
Wiggles (1953)

Jimmy Reed
Roll and Rhumba (1953)

Eddie Calvert
Oh Mein Papa (1954)
Cherry Pink And Apple Blossom White (1955)

Ave Maria

Winifred Atwell
Lets have ding dong (1955)
Poor People Of Paris (1956)

Bill Doggett
Honky Tonk (1956)

Bill Justis
Raunchy (1957)

The Virtues
Guitar Boogie Shuffle (1958)

Duane Eddy
Rebel Rouser (1958)
Forty miles of bad road (1959)
Shazam (1960)
Peter Gunn (1960)
Because they’re young (1960)

The Royaltones
Bad Boy (1958)

Cozy Cole
Topsy (1958)

The Champs
Tequila (1958)

Link Wray and His Ray Men
Rumble (1958)

The Fireballs
Fireball (1959)

The Wailers
Tall Cool One (1959)

Dave "Baby" Cortez
The Happy Organ (1959)

Santo and Johnny
Sleep walk (1959)

Johnny and the Hurricanes
Crossfire (1959)
Red River Rock (1959)

The Ventures
Walk don’t run (1960)

Preston Epps
Bongo Rock (1960)

Bill Black Combo
Don’t be cruel (1960)

The Shadows
Apache (1960)

Sandy Nelson
Let there be drums (1961)

Dick Dale
Let's Go Trippin'/Del-Tone Rock (Deltone 1961)

The Atlantics
Bombora (1963)

Kenny Ball
Midnight in Moscow (1961)

Dave Bruebeck
Take Five (1961)

Acker Bilk
Stranger on the shore (1962)

The Tornados
Telstar (1962).

Lonnie Mack
Memphis (1963)

Boots Randolph
Yakety Sax (1963)

Sounds Incorporated
William Tell Overture (1964).

Booker T. & the MG's
Green Onions (1962)

The Nice
America (1968)

Fleetwood Mac
Albatros (1969)

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Mickie Most (1938 - 2003)

Michael Peter Hayes was born in 1938 in Aldershot, Hampshire. His family moved to Harrow, North London in 1951 where Michael grew up. As a young teenager he soon became a devotee to skiffle and early rock 'n' roll and left school, aged 15, to become a singing waiter at the 2i's Coffee Bar, Soho.

Michael made many friends including his future business partner, Peter Grant, Terry Dene and Wee Willie Harris, and singing partner, Alex Wharton (aka Alex Murray, who later produced the Moody Blues single, Go Now). Michael and Alex formed a short lived duo called Most Bros. The Most Brothers worked in the famous The 2i's Coffee Bar before touring the U.K. with Marty Wilde, Colin Hicks (younger brother of Tommy Steele), The Tony Crombie Big Band, Cliff Richard, The Kalin Twins, and Wee Willie Harris. In 1957 they scored minor hits with Whistle Bait and Takes a Whole Lotta Loving to Keep My Baby Happy before disbanding the act in 1958.

In 1959 Michael officially changed his name to Mickie Most and got married before immigrating to South Africa. There he formed a group called Mickie Most and the Playboys and recorded cover versions of mostly US material. The songs of Ray Peterson, Gene Vincent, and Eddie Cochran featured prominently.

Mickie Most and the Playboys became one of South Africa’s top groups but in 1962 Mickie decided to come home and try his luck in the UK. At first he continued to perform and record with modest chart success but Mickie was interested in other challenges. He started in retail, selling records in stores by displaying them on racks so after he joined Columbia Records as a producer. UK was in the middle of a white boy blues revival and Mickie took the Animals from Newcastle into the studio and recorded Baby, Let Me Take You Home, which reached number 21 in the UK charts.

The House of the rising sun was a follow up single and became an instant worldwide hit establishing Mickie Most as a credible hit maker.

Soon he was working with other acts producing other smash hits. Harvey Lisberg asked Mickie to work his group Herman’s Hermits. I'm Into Something Good, went straight to #1 in 1964, and began an incredible run of single and album sales (ten million units over twelve months) by the band.

Mickie’s strengths were his down-to-earth handling of the band, his business acumen and his unerring knack for selecting hit singles. More success came with the Nashville Teens and Tobacco Road.

In 1964 he worked with Brenda Lee and recorded Is It True which became a hit in the UK and US.

In 1966 he produced as string of hits for Donovan with Mellow Yellow, Jennifer Juniper, Hurdy Gurdy Man, and had success with Lulu’s To Sir with Love, The Boat That I Row, Boom Bang-A-Bang and I'm a Tiger.

He produced The Seekers singles Days of My Life and Love Is Kind, Love Is Wine, in 1968.

Mickie Most's productions were regularly backed by top London session musicians including Big Jim Sullivan and Jimmy Page on guitar, John Paul Jones on bass guitar and arrangements, and Nicky Hopkins on piano. By the end of the decade he was producing Jeff Beck's hit singles Love is Blue and Hi Ho Silver Lining.

Despite his massive success Mickie Most had a formulaic approach which contrasted sharply with the heavier rock movement of the late sixties. Peter Noon (Herman) reported the push to record stereo typical English pop whilst commercially successful stifled Herman’ Hermits which prevented them from developing and inevitably led to the break-up. Similarly Mickie’s work with The Yardbirds on their album, Little Games, found major differences in artistic direction. The album did not sell well and the group changed producers as did a heavier and rockier, Donovan.

Determined to continue in commercial pop Mickie Most in conjunction with Peter Grant started their own label called RAK (named after the record filled shelves he used to tack) in 1969. As Peter Grant became more involved with The Yardbirds, soon to evolve into Led Zeppelin, Mickie Most was left to control the company. Nicky Chinn and Mike Chapman were engaged as staff song writers who wrote many hits for Suzi Quatro, Sweet and Mud.

During the 70s Mickie Most worked with Hot Chocolate, giving them two major hits, including You Sexy Thing.

Other luminaries to record with RAK Records or be produced by Mickie Most were The Arrows and I love rock’n’roll, Julie Felix and El Condor Pasa, Mary Hopkin with Knock Knock Who's There? and Temma Harbour.

Alexis Korner's CCS, and Chris Spedding also signed to RAK Records. In 1976, Mickie Most produced Chris Spedding's self-titled album "Chris Spedding" which marked the beginning of what would be considered New Wave.

In 1980, Mickie Most discovered singer Kim Wilde and produced her hit single Kids In America.

As the decade passed Mickie took less to do with recording and production and worked as a panelist on various television talent shows as well as managing his extensive publishing catalogue. He was diagnosed with cancer in 2000, peacefully passing away in 2003.

Worth a listen:
Mickie Most
Mister Porter (1963)

Most Bros
Takes a whole lot of loving to keep my baby happy (1957)

Moody Blues
Go Now (1964)

Baby, Let Me Take You Home (1964)
House of the Rising Sun (1964)

Herman’s Hermits
I’m into something good (1964)
Nashville Teens

Tobacco Road (1964)

Sunshine Superman (1966)
Mellow Yellow (1967)
Jennifer Juniper (1968)
Hurdy Gurdy Man (1968)

To Sir with Love (1967)
The Boat That I Row (1967)
I'm a Tiger (1968)
Boom Bang-A-Bang (1969)

Suzi Quatro
Can the can (1973)
48 Crash (1973)

Tiger Feet (1974)

Brenda Lee
Is It True (1964)

The Seekers
Love Is Kind, Love Is Wine (1968)

Jeff Beck
Hi Ho Silver Lining (1967)

Ballroom Blitz (1973)

Hot Chocolate
You Sexy Thing (1975)

The Arrows
I love rock’n’roll (1975)

Julie Felix
El Condor Pasa (1970)

Mary Hopkin
Knock Knock Who's There? (1970)
Temma Harbour (1970)

Alexis Korner's CCS
Whole lotta love (1970)

Chris Spedding
Motor Biking (1975)

Kim Wilde
Kids In America (1981)

The Royal Showband Waterford - Hucklebuck

These are the shoes Brendan Bowyer wore when performing the Hucklebuck in 1964. The band were named after the Theatre Royal in Waterford. They were the first of the Irish bands to attach the word Showband to their title. When they appeared at the Victoria Palace in London in front an audience which included two members of the royal family the band were introduced as ‘The Waterford Showband’. The Royal Showband won 'Top Modern Dance Band' in Britain in 1961 and went on a national tour with the Beatles as their support.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Norman Hurricane Smith (1923 - 2008)

Born in North London in 1923 Norman Smith spent sometime in the RAF as a glider pilot before joining EMI’s Abbey Road studios as a tape operator in 1959. Norman worked his way up to become a valued sound engineer and oversaw the Beatles audition at the famous London studios. He worked miracles on their musical equipment which was grossly inferior but the end result was so noteworthy he called Sir George Martin (his boss) to listen to them. Martin signed the unknown Beatles to the Parlophone label.

Norman ‘Hurricane’ Smith remained the main sound engineer at Abbey Road and worked with the Fab Four until 1965 and the Rubber Soul, album.

He wanted to spread his wings and become a record producer and in 1967 took over a new signing to the label. The band was Pink Floyd and Hurricane produced three of their first four albums (The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, A Saucerful of Secrets, and Ummagumma). Piper at the Gates of Dawn featured Syd Barrett who was the original singer/songwriter/lead guitarist but after he left the group Norman found difficulty keeping up with Pink Floyd’s new direction.

He switched his attention to the Pretty Things who had been an early UK blues outfit but were now experimenting with psychodelic rock. Norman Smith produced the Pretty Things' single, "Defecting Grey"/"Mr. Evasion," in late 1967.

The following year the Pretty Things released S.F. Sorrow, which was the first concept album that proved inspiration to Pete Townsend who then went on to write Tommy.

Smith’s expertise and encouragement for the concept album project was immense something lead singer Phil May has always acknowledged and even referred to Norman as the sixth member of the band. On the recording S F Sorrow the Pretty Things experimented with the latest sound technology, including the Mellotron and early electronic tone generators. Many of the gadgets and techniques used were improvised by the Abbey Road's technicians. Norman Smith was also a consummate musician and had played drums on Pink Floyd’s "Remember a Day."

It is also reputed he sold one of his songs to the Beatles for 15,000 pounds. The Fab Four needed a last song to complete the Help album and heard Norman’s song and were impressed. Then it was decided that Ringo should have a track on the album and the Beatles recorded "Act Naturally" with Ringo on lead vocals.

Hurricane Smith had his own hit in 1971 when ‘Don’t let it die’ entered the UK charts.

The following year “Oh babe what would you say?” was a hit in the US.

He completed a hat trick of hits with a cover version of Gilbert O'Sullivan's "Who Was It?"

Norman Smith wrote a very interesting autobiography, entitled ‘John Lennon Called Me Normal.’ Norman 'Hurricane' Smith died in March 2008 at the age of 85.

Worth a listen:

Hurricane Smith
Don’t let it die (1971)
Oh babe what would you say? (1972)
Who Was It? (1972)

The Beatles
Act Naturally (1965)
Drive My Car
Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)
You Won't See me
Nowhere Man
I'm Looking Through You
In My Life
If I Needed Someone
Run for Your Life

Pink Floyd
Interstellar Overdrive (1967)
Remember a Day (1967)

The Pretty Things
Defecting Grey/Mr. Evasion (1967)
S F Sorrow is born (1968)