Mensch im Eis
Vorgruppe Mensch im Eis 7" (H'Art, 198?)
There was a time long, long ago when anything thing that wasn't Top 40 rock and roll and that had some kind of edge to it was considered punk or at least new wave. Then one day some one came along and decided that every genre needed a subgenre and every subgenre needed a subsubgenre and so on. Terms which were used by record reviewers to describe a band's sound, such as "gothic" and "grunge," became genre classifications. Who was responsible? Maybe some smarmy critic or a cynical record industry hack. At this point, it doesn't matter. All I know is it is annoying when I look on the web for information about a band like Vorgruppe and I get tag words such as New Dark Wave. New Dark Wave? My god? Why not resurrect that fop of a genre, Batcave or, better still, New Romantic. What a bunch of bullshit.
Yeah, you guessed it. I know nothing about Vorgruppe. Do a search on the name and you will find that the band's name is German for Support Group or Opening Act. The song roughly translates to Humans in Ice. The record looks to be early 80s and, by the sound of it, these youngsters were definitely one of the many bands under the spell of Joy Division. Unlike a lot of those bands, Vorgruppe pull it off with some charm. The flipside is a slower version of the same song.
Time Ole Story
Gary "U.S." Bonds Time Ole Story 45 (Legrand, 1961)
My first exposure to Gary "U.S." Bonds was when I in my early teens. Bruce Springstein had covered Quarter to Three and then produced Out of Work, pushing Bonds from the State Fair circuit to the limelight. The Northern Soul craze in the UK meant that "has beens" such as Bonds could hop across the pond and make some real money. His name started appearing in Sounds, NME, and even Creem. I was at the age where I would buy, read AND believe music rag hype, at least believe it enough to go down to the record shop and buy the brand new Gary "U.S." Bond release, which in the late Seventies meant taking a five dollar bill and setting flame to it.
Perhaps had I grabbed a Best of... or Greatest Hits collection I would have dug Bonds. Perhaps not. I am not going to lie to you and write that at 13 years old my musical palette was seasoned enough to appreciate Bonds or even get what the hell he was doing. Nah, at 13 my ears were tuned to Black Sabbath and in search of one thing: Something more extreme than Sabbath. I had no older brother or even a friend's older brother to lay a copy of Fun House or Maggot Brain on me. Hell, I never saw a god damn copy of In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida in anyone's record collection until one found its way into mine years later. And besides, Bonds is Black and in my White working/middle class neighborhood the only Black men whose music you listened to was Jimi Hendrix and Phil Lynott. So I had to wait til I was in my twenties and freed of prejudice-formed ignorant notions about what was rock and roll and what was not for me to turn on to early R&B.
As I am sure I've blabbed before, in my mid-twenties I started actively...nay...agressively buying R&B 45s. I'd hit thrift stores, salvage yards, garage sales, wherever 45s might be. Of course, I would come across Gary "U.S." Bonds records. How could I not: In two years the guy had seven Top 40 hits. Quarter to Three hit number one in the White charts, which meant it sold a hell of a lot of copies. So the records are out there.
Quarter to Three. It was the hit. It is an okay song but it is not why we are here. Once again, we are gathered to flip the son of a bitch over and play Time Ole Story.
Time Ole Story is one of my favorite songs. It has almost everything I require and more. First off the little strummed guitar intro is simple and has a nice layer of reverb on it. The rhythm track eases into a very cool (and I mean cool like a mean lean, impenetrable black sunglasses, and a flick knife) funky jungle shamble. The main vocal line comes in and the melody is a straight steal of Summertime, one of my top five favorite songs. The vocal is answered by a subdued sax. The male backing vocals are zombie-like and the female backing is a Yma Sumac meets Town Without Pity haunted wail. The lyrics are about a Bad Woman who scorned Bonds and to show so how bad she is, he pulls out the Bible and proceeds to use Eve and the Queen of Sheba as examples of how his woman is so damn wretched. SOLD!
This is an extremely easy record to find. I would advise picking it up when you see it.
Vernard Johnson Live
Vernard Johnson Live LP (Glori Records, 1978)
My introduction to live Black Gospel music was the result of a trip to Al Green's Full Gospel Tabernacle Church on Hale Road in Memphis, TN. A friend and I entered the church on a Sunday at 9 am and left at 1 pm. In that four hours, we experienced something unlike anything either one of us had seen or heard. We sang, we danced, we shook, we yelled, we saw women speak in tongues, we saw other women shake ecstatic and flop around on the floor, we saw Al Green jump on a table and stomp and dance and sing. For four hours, we experienced the full force of spiritual emotion.
Now, I won't say that I have never had felt moved by music. The big draw of punk rock for me and thousands of other 15 year-old outcasts was that the music "spoke" to me. Punk shows were a gathering of tribes, complete with ritualistic pogoing, slam dancing, and stage diving. As I got older, punk rock became routine. I looked at music through much more jaded eyes. Though I would get excited by music from time to time, I denied that music could "move" me. Then came the visit to Al Green's church.
The power of Black Gospel music did not lead me into a God trip or make me any more spiritual than I am today. It did, however, open my mind to a whole new (to me) genre of music. Yeah, yeah, like anyone who hordes records, I was always "into Gospel music," but into it meant, "Yeah, man, Gospel, cool. But only the Black stuff. The White stuff is for squares." Force me to name any one Gospel group of pioneer and I would have started and stopped at Aretha Franklin. So much for "into."
After experiencing the music live...no, make that, having lived through the music, I started to pick up the odd Black Gospel record whenever I went thrifting or combing through the local used record stores. The problem was (and still is) that Sacramento has a relatively small Black population. Currently, African-Americans make up about 15% of the people in the greater Sacramento area - perhaps 150,000 out of million people. A good portion of these folks are middle-class, state workers and have been assimilated into the population. As a result, despite having a noted Black Gospel scene, there are not many Black Gospel records floating around, at least not out in the open.
Fast forward to about ten years after my first encounter with the Reverend Green. The Sacramento area's once thriving used record community has dwindled to a pathetic few. The thrift stores are picked over. And cruising spring and summer yard sales becomes more and more futile. This disease is nationwide.
Almost parallel with the vinyl woe is the increased commercialization of music. No longer does a music's style eliminate it from exploitation. No matter how loud, how violent, how anti-social, there is now a place in a television commercial, movie soundtrack, or promotional video for any genre of music. And if a sound can't make a beer commercial, it can always be used as a professional wrestler's theme song.
The money that goes along with such commercialization is so big that even small time punk bands think that they might be able to make it big. And they are right. If they are willing to jump through the music industry's hoops and play the hype machine, they just might. Meanwhile, they can consider themselves as authentic as any other huckster.
And there lies the problem: While there has always been commercial music as well as music used in commercials, until recently there was at least a corner carved out for the "freaks." Blues, rockabilly, free jazz, psychedelia, freak rock, funk, prog, heavy metal, punk rock, outlaw country, post punk, hardcore, hip hop, death metal, techno... And in these corners lurked authenticity. The music might have been done for any number of reasons, but since there was scant commercial potential in any of these genres, the desire to create those musics had a lot to do with emotion and the need to create. When all music becomes a marketplace, it is much more difficult to find authenticity, to find music with a soul.
So confronted with an ever dwindling supply of good vinyl and an even more desolate soundscape, a man in search of something real carved into plastic (no need to comment on the irony) is forced to take desperate action. Okay, maybe not desperate action...but he is forced to remember musical experiences that moved him and get off his lazy ass and start looking for records in places where he normally wouldn't look: Black Gospel record stores.
And that is what he did and what he found was a whole bunch of Black Gospel records. Over a few weeks, the he who is really me so I'll cut the third person crap and start going one on one...over a few weeks, I brought home about 75 Gospel albums and slowly began sorting through them. The result was 25:75. For every good record, there were about 3 bad ones, and some of the good ones were only half good. Great ones? One out of twenty, maybe. One of those great ones being Vernard Johnson Live on Glori Records.
Vernard Johnson stands alone as the world's only Gospel saxophonists. Johnson interprets Gospel standards and writes new material with the sax taking the lead, instead of the vocals. While the sax sometimes sings the song's melody, like a Gospel singer, Johnson lets the music's spirit or just the Spirit carry him. Melody will fall to powerful wails. Much like a preacher repeating phrases, Johnson will blast out a series of notes, over and over, each repetition a little more intense, a bit more urgent, until the phrase bursts into a cascade of notes and high pitched moans.
On Live, Johnson takes Amazing Grace - one of Black American music's most memorable melody's (written by John Newton, an Englishman!) - and gets everything he can out of it. The melody is strained, rushed, drawn out, punched, and stretched until every possible emotion is wrung out of it. Andrea Crouch's Soon and Very Soon is pumped full of energy, Johnson tearing through it with King Curtis-style horn lines. Clara Ward's How I got Over is given similar treatment, though the band kicks the energy into funk, while Johnson skips over the melody and punctures phrases.
The two high points (throughout a consistent high) are If God is Dead and Vernard Moans. The ten minutes of If God is Dead starts with the band laying down a semi-soft backing, while Johnson tells the story of his conversion. Born in Kansas City, Johnson played in a few King Curtis type R&B bands. In the early Seventies, he moved to Ft. Worth, TX (Curtis's hometown, as well as Ornette Coleman's) and underwent a conversion to Christianity.
Born again, Johnson was thinking of giving up music as he didn't think his sax playing would go over well in the church, especially among the old folk. However, before he chucked the sax, he was told by God, "Don't, don't, don't stop blowing your horn; just sing a different song."
Johnson's life story gives way to his affirmation of the Lord and proclaiming that if God was dead, he'd fell like....and then the band kicks into the song If God was Dead. Through the front end of the song, Johnson plays a simple melody, mimicking the vocal line. As the song ages, the sax gets more expressive. The sweet tone falls to emotion and, as Johnson wails, so does the crowd. Instead of cheers, the audience shrieks orgasmic. Women's screams pierce through the horn and Johnson reacts with more ecstatic playing. The tail end of the song is pure spiritualized free jazz - a holy meeting of Albert Ayler's Truth is Marching In and John Coltrane's Living Space. For about four minutes the band swirls to Johnson's cries and then the track fades.
Vernard Moans is something all together different. The song starts with a "mellow" Gospel pumping, a sort of static surge that barely avoids bursting into pure sound. The song pulses more intense and Johnson breaks into sermon for a few minutes. Speaking words, his voice takes the phrasing of his sax. Speech winds and stops and stutters and starts up and without notice the band kicks into a funky, joyous burst of celebration. Johnson’s horn dances in and out of the party and the track fades.
Vernard Johnson is not a small time player in the world of the saxophone. He is often noted as an influence along with John Coltrane, Ornette Coleman, and Albert Ayler. Like Coleman, Johnson comes from a R&B background. As with later Coltrane, Johnson's music is intensely spiritual. And much like Ayler, Johnson fills his sound with raw emotion. That Johnson took the path of Christianity is not to be discounted, however, it also doesn't mean he should be thought as only a Gospel musician. What Vernard Johnson is is an authentic voice, a piercing song of soul in a world prone to Mammon. He is an original in American music and he should be heard.
George Coleman Bongo Joe LP (Arhoolie, 1969)
As Hurricane Rita races toward Galveston, Texas, I might as well tell you about that island town's most unique and not-so-treasured musician. George Coleman was born in 1923 in Haines, Florida, on the gulf coast. He was a teen when he hit the road, working on the docks or farms. During World War Two he served in the Army Air Corps and was discharged in Houston.
In Houston, Coleman wanted to make the scene so he told a local band leader he wanted to play drums in his band. The band leader asked Georgeif he had a drums set and when he replied "No," he was told to buzz off. George got pissed off but instead of letting the rejection get to him, he scrounged up a bunch of cans and oil drums and stared playing in the street. He was not received kindly so he took off to Galveston, then a tourist Mecca. He made a living playing the beach. He also toured Texas and Louisiana, playing to President John Kennedy in Ft Worth, Texas the night before JFK was assassinated. By the late 60s, Galveston had turned into a retirement town and Bongo Joe, as he was known, was a little to loud for the bluehairs. In '69, he packed up and moved to San Antonio.
He set up near the Alamo and soon became a fixture on the River Walk, where Muhammad Ali paid him a visit. In 1976, President Gerald Ford invited George to perform on a 10-day campaign stint. Coleman was arrested in 1984 when he shot a man he thought was going to rob him as he was performing. He received a suspended sentence and no jail time.
Through his career, Coleman played for presidents, with Sammy Davis, Jr., appeared in a TV commercial promoting the San Antonio Symphony, and had just one record released, this one on Arhoolie in 1969. And why all the fuss? You'll soon hear, but let me just say that there was no one like Bongo Joe. Not only did he play his steel drum like it was a band but his raps are amazing.
Another Stack of 45s
So...I brought a bunch of 45s to work and threw them on the turntable sitting on my desk. No research on these pups, just what I hear. Some will be sampled for future cruds.
United Fruit Co. Yes We Have No Bananas 45 (York)
A surprisingly good bubblegum version of this old whore. The laid back tempo, a heavily whispered "Bananas," and a very cool vocal break makes this a keeper. The flip is so-so folk pop.
Bobby Russell Ain't Society Great? 45 (Elf)
After Ray Davies started dragging tubas and shit into his Kinks kritiques of class and status, hundred of others followed with their faux-social commentary, of course dressed up with some kind of strings or vocals that was supposed to represent high society or something like that. Funny thing is most of these knock offs came from the US, where we've always denied the existence of an aristocracy (at least post Civil War). This is Bobby Russell's stab at the form. It is not bad. Kind of mellow but maybe that is his southern drawl, some cool backing vocals, and the obligatory string part. This would have been baroque pop if Russell wasn't on a budget. The flip is horrible.
Bobby Byrd Keep on Doin What You're Doin (Brown Stone)
This has got to be the third or fourth copy of this I've picked up. I can't pass it up. It is one of my favorite James Brown productions. Not only is there a dance floor filling groove here but the guitar is fantastic. The flip, Let Me Know, is a nice blues ballad with a killer organ running through it.
The Surf Symphony Night of the Lions 45 (Capitol)
A pretty tough sounding orchestrated surf song. It starts off with the riff from Money and builds on that. The distorted (but unfortunately partially buried) guitar sounds nice with a huge band and strings behind it. And do I hear a harpsichord? Reminds me of a ballsier Billy Strange. The flip, Bluebird of the Summer, is a bit more subdued and sounds like Brian Wilson Smile pop.
Gonzales Crystal Blue Persuasion 45 (Emi)
As much as I try to resist, Crystal Blue Persuasion is one of my favorite songs of all time. I walk down the street and for no reason I find myself singing it. So I pick up copies when I find it. Here Gonzales does a funky Latin version of it that sounds pretty much exactly like what you would think War would do with it, including the dorky salsa part at the end. Serviceable.
Buddy Knox I Think I'm Gonna Kill Myself 45 (Roulette)
I am a BIG fan of suicide songs so when my record store pal told me Buddy Knox of Party Doll fame had a song about killing himself, I knew I had to have it. A very cool rockabilly lite song with a nice guitar break which segues into a "boppa boppa toody boppa" vocal part and immediately slides into "I bow my head/because in the morning I'm gonna be dead/I think I'm gonna kill myself"! What an unexpected treasure!
Bobby Staker Leave Marriage Alone b/w Let Them Talk 45 (Hunt)
Calypso pop that favors the pop over the calypso. Some good horns otherwise not too exciting. Sounds like Hollywood calypso.
Jerry Blavat, The Geator & the Geatorettes All Be Joyous (Bond)
A very strange but totally cool mix of bongo drums, strummy guitar, psych flute, and chanting. Sounds like if the Fugs were trapped in a movie set jungle. Tasty (to Me), the flip, is a bubblegum answer song to Yummy Yummy with a reference to drinking menstrual blood and a hell of a drum break. What a great 45! It will definitely be crudded.
Liz Damon's Orient Express 1900 Yesterday 45 (White Whale)
It is always a mixed bag with White Whale. Some times you get great bubblegum and Sixties baroque pop. Other times you get schlock. And every once in while you get both in the same song. LDOE fuses very nice baroque pop with easy listening vocal schlock. Turn it over and You're Falling in Love is total Georgie Girl pop. Disposable.
Aztecs Regulation Three Puff 45 (Rak)
The song starts of mid jam and the jam is a funky rock groove with duel guitar/piano solos. The horn starts off doing scales and then descends into some netherworlds and then it is back doing the toodly-tot thing and so it goes. This has the electric funky Miles stamp all over it. The flip is a god awful folky hippie boogie called Most People Think That I am Crazy.
Flavor Shop Around 45 (Columbia)
Great funky, heavy bubblegum with a garage sneer. And then a Mitch Easter meets bubblegum meets Young Rascals version of Sally Had a Party. A perfect house party 45.
Mable John Don't Hit Me No More 45 (Stax)
People who grouse about He Hit Me and It Felt Like a Kiss, have never heard Mable John's answer to it. Mable just won't to take that shit. "A woman wasn't taken from a man's hand bone/That means she wasn't meant to be beat on." A tuff ballad that has the full Stax sound cruising through it. Left Over Lover doesn't have the same message or novelty, but it is a better song. Mable's vocals has a tad huskier Etta James thing going on and the music is damn great, slow and swinging.
Ya'Soo Doo Boo Doo Boo Za b/w Tsamico Horos 45 (Gorgona)
Yeah, that's band and title and label and the song sounds as fucked up as those words suggest. Though this is out of San Mateo, California, it sounds like Middle Eastern Mexican Gypsies were trapped in a psychedelic circus haunted house. This is definitely crud material and some day I'll let you hear it.
Spit Baby Two Songs (Crud Crud, 2003)
Today I'm gonna post something I haven't done before: I am presenting two songs that have never seen any kind of release and were made digitally from start to finish. The reason why is because my fancy computer is still down and my compu-guru is out of town on business. Technically I am still back in 1999, when computers ran slow. My old computer grinds along fine but it limits what I can post here, so I dig through old wav files and see what I can give you. Today I found two songs that I made up on this machine in March 2003. Both songs were assembled from records recorded into Soundforge, then chopped up, looped, and overdubbed. I didn't use any filters or mess with the sound in any other way. I forget exactly what records I used for these things, but I do recall one being an Ethnic Folkways album from South America (Bolivia?), some drum-based exotica record, a record by the French musician Areski, a bird training record, a whistle from a New York Dolls LP, and perhaps a couple others. I've got more of this crap, so if you folks dig this stuff I'll post other songs in the future. The lady in the picture? That's my mom way back when Nat King Cole ruled the scene.
There are genres that you think you've heard almost everything there is or at least you think you can find a reference to almost everything released. Punk rock from 1976 to 1983, Sixties garage punk, French Ye-Ye, psych, 70s/80s power pop, Northern soul, rockabilly have all been thoroughly comped, bootlegged, MP3ed, chronicled, and entered into some discography somewhere. However, every once in a while, I stumble upon something that I know must have been documented but never is. This 1.4.5. record is such a case.
So what do I know: The names of the band members, that it was recorded in 1981, and that they were from Syracuse, New York - which is where I bought it about five or so years ago (a thrift store, if you must know). I also know what the thing looks like and perhaps when my computer gets up and running again (damn you Bill Gates!) I'll throw a cover scan up here. Right now you will have to settle for the music, which I am sure you will be happy to settle for, as this is Grade A, Power Pearls quality power pop. Here are all four tracks. Good luck, tracking one of these down!
Sandy Nelson Boogaloo Beat LP (Imperial, 1967)
You see his records around, but do you buy them? Do you even know who Sandy Nelson is? In the Fifties and Sixties, he was one of the big names in session musicians. He appeared on the Hollywood Argyles' Alley Oop and the Teddy Bears' To Know Him is to Love Him. Phil Spector used him a lot. In 1959, he had a top ten hit with Soul Drums and two years later scored another top ten with Let There Be Drums. In 1963, he got in a motorcycle accident and lost part of his leg, but a year later he was back drumming. By the time Boogaloo Beat came out in 1967, Nelson had released 25 albums under his own name.
I first started buying Sandy Nelson records because they were a buck or two and the titles were promising - Soul Drums, Cheetah Beat, Beat that Drum, etc. Later on, I'd pick up his records because I'd get a brain cramp and mistake his name for Sandy Bull, the guitarist who made some great albums on Vanguard. I would go home and drop needle and was always disappointed. There was nothing soulful or wild about the records. In some ways, they remind me of Chet Atkins records, the exception being Chet Atkins records have Chet Atkins on them, so while they are not wild, the guitar playing is insanely great. Sandy Nelson is a drummer and the tame instros don't really take off due to his thumping. In fact, his records are boring. So the rule became: No Sandy Nelson records, no matter how cheap.
Well, sometimes a rule is canceled out by another rule. In this case the No Sandy Nelson rule was superseded by the Buy Any Record With Boogaloo In The Title rule. So I am in record store and stumble upon Boogaloo Beat. I pick it up and think, "It's Sandy Nelson." But the song listing shows five songs with "boogaloo" in the title and there are covers of Funky Broadway and Get On Up, so it might be good. Plus how can you pass up a record with a song called Karate Boogaloo on it. I put five buck in the record man's hand and go home and put it on.
Fuck. This is funky. Sandy Nelson is funky. How the fuck did that happen? Pick up the needle and drop it on another song. Still funky. Taste another. Funky. Again. Funky. Funky. And funky. What do you know, Sandy Nelson actually made a funk record and a good one at that. I pick up the phone and call my friend Dennis. I say, "Guess who this is?" and hold the phone up to a speaker. I return to the phone. "Do you know?" "Damn, I have no idea." "Sandy Nelson." "You're shittin me! Sandy Nelson?" "Yeah, Sandy Nelson!"
Lullaby from the Womb
Dr. Hajime Murooka's Lullaby from the Womb LP (Capitol, 1974)
In the early 1970s, Dr. Murooka, Professor of Gynecology at Nippon Medical University in Tokyo, tried to figure out ways to calm newborn babies. He figured that much of a babies crying and inability to sleep came from suddenly appearing in a new world, away from the safe confines of the womb.
Murooka observed that the incubator served as a surrogate womb, a warm, comfortable place that kept babies feeling secure. He knew that there had to be other ways to make a baby's transition from womb to the outside world much more seamless. In his search, Murooka stumbled upon sound.
Murooka observed that newborns were super sensitive to sound. He saw that babies stretched their hands when confronted with unfamiliar noises such as heavy footsteps or a slammed door. Even in sleep, he noticed that babies reacted strongly to strange sounds.
This realization lead to an insight: What if a baby was surrounded with familiar sound and transitioned to the soundtrack of everyday life? There must be sounds that would serve to wean newborns from the comfort of the womb, Murooka thought.
After much searching, Murooka found that infants respond to the sound of a mother's heartbeat, a sound that every fetus hears 24-7. The good doctor took an 8-mm microphone and placed it near the head of the fetus growing inside a woman who was 8 months pregnant. He then played the recording to a room of "restless, howling infants." The babies fell silent. Soon they were asleep.
The first four cuts on this album are of a mother's main artery and veins. The sounds range from booming - almost like the sound of a pile drive ramming I-beams into the ground - to a pulsating hum not unlike the chanting of Tibetan monks.
Murooka wasn't done with his experiments just yet. He knew that adults also responded to sound. Familiar tunes, such as light classical music, often soothed people trapped in confined spaces, such as an airplane. The doctor figured that if he combined music with the sound of a mother's heartbeat, a baby could be eased into the world.
Two cuts on Lullaby from the Womb are Murooka's mix of heartbeats and music. Each cut starts with the pounding of the mother's heart. After about 30 seconds, light symphonic music fades in. For his experiment, Murooka chose Wolf-Ferrari's Jewels of the Madonna and Schumann's Scenes from Childhood. The mix of the heart and the music is strange but not unsettling. While there is a contrast, a very marked one, all the sounds seem to go together. When the heartbeat fades to a few seconds of music you leave both pieces a bit more relaxed.
Once a baby gets used to the mix of heartbeat and music, Murooka advises transitioning the infant to just music. Side two of the record is just that. And while, Tchiakovsky, Bach, and Massenet are good listens, it is side one which makes this a keeper.
Lullaby from the Womb is not a difficult record to find. Thousands of them were sold to mothers during the 1970s and they now hit thrift store bins with regularity. For those of you who are interested in sound, are noise fanatics or DJ's, and/or dig strange records, I would advise keeping an eye out for this one.
Below are the two experiments Murooka did with heartbeats and classical music. The music drifts in so give it some time. The last cut is a mix Murooka did of various sounds from the womb.
This is one of my all time fave "strange" records.
Give Me Love
Rosie & the Originals Give Me Love 45 (Highland, 1961)
One of the greatest R&B 45s is a record that almost didn't get made. In 1961, National City, California's Rosie & the Originals crammed into a station wagon and headed to San Marcos. Singer Rosie Hamlin writes, "In those days San Marcos was out in the middle of no-where. Los Angeles was too far for us. I remember seeing cows and farms as far as the eye could see. We finally arrived at this place that looked to us like an old barn. It was actually an old airplane hanger. The owner had airplane parts all over the place. He was retired and had always wanted to record so he had a corner set up with recording equipment."
Sixteen year-old Rosie and her teenage band set up their amps and waited for the sax player, Alfred Barrett, to arrive. After an hour or so, the band got worried and called Albert at home. He said he couldn't make it, his mom was making him mow the lawn! Alfred did, however, instruct the bassist, Tony Gomez, how to play the Angel Baby sax solo - a five minute lesson done over the phone.
The band did 30 takes of Angel Baby and was about to wrap it up when the engineer asked if they had another song. "Another song?" the band replied. They only had one song to record. The engineer told them that if they wanted to make a record they needed a B-side. So the band started to jam out an R&B groove and told their pal, Blueford Wade, who was along for the ride, to improv some vocals. The result was Give Me Love.
It is a rare person who has not heard Angel Baby on oldies radio. The song gets regular airplay and, as far as oldies tunes go, it is great. There is nothing slick about the song. It slowly crawls along as a R&B ballad, Rosie in high nasal crooning the poem she wrote when she was 14. The band hits the bridge and Gomez barely gets through his sax solo - one that Bowie must have practiced to - while the drummer misses a few beats. The bass and piano keep it together with deliberation.
Give Me Love is even rawer than the hit A-side. Since the song was an afterthought, knocked off in 5 minutes, that is not a surprise. However, it is the rawness and the lack of preparation that makes the song fantastic. A straight up Jimmy Reed style pump & dump, Give Me Love cruises through missed beats, a flubbed guitar break, and a barely competent sax solo. While the band stays in time, the song has no set structure. Where verse ends and chorus begins all depends on which band member takes the lead and when the others decide to follow. Somehow, Blueford Wade negotiates this. He follows the twists and turns of the song to the end, then he plaintively asks to be held tight, "'til everything's all right." A guitar flourish and the song is done.
In a 1968 interview, John Lennon raved about Give Me Love, saying the song "is what it's all about." And he is right. Spontaneous emotion on top of a beat, with little care about anything other than playing a song, Give Me Love is one of the best B-sides ever recorded.
You can find Angel Baby b/w Give me Love for a dollar or less in almost any 45 bin. Find it for a buck and you not only have a steal, but a great example of why it pays to flip a 45 over.
Barbara Sellers Brazil 45 (Crystal Records, 196??)
There was a time where a good portion of American homes had an organ sitting in the living room. It had a rhythm track or three built into it, some foot peddles to play bass, and different settings where you could make the keys approximate horns or strings or guitar (never sounded right). The kids would jump on the organ from time to time but it usually sat dusty until the holiday season, when some aunt or uncle would sit down and play Christmas songs, a few oldies, and slip in something current like "Do You Feel Like I Do" for the teens - oh yes, and "Baby Elephant Walk." Unfortunately for 99.9999999999999999999999999% of America, Timmy Thomas ain't their uncle. Also unfortunate is that Barbara Sellers wasn't their aunt.
The little I know about Ms Sellers is from the record label and grooves of this lil black thing. She is most likely from Chicago. She plays a Hammond X-66 organ. And her music makes me think of a psychedelic Woody Allen. If you know more or happen to have witness a Christmas performance by her at a relatives house, please come forth.
Don'tcha Feel Like Cryin'
Nobody's Children Don'tcha Feel Like Cryin' 45 (Bullet, 1967)
This is not just a record to me but so much more. I found this record at Ye Olde Record Shoppe, an used store in Diamond Springs, California, run by a guy named Bruce Carlson. Before I get to Bruce, first I'll tell you what I know about Nobody's Children and this record.
One of many bands to go by Nobody's Children, these guys were from Bethesda, Maryland. They formed at Suitland Echo High School as Adam's Apples and changed their name when a local dejay gave them an opportunity to record a 45, the legendary Junco Partner (comped on Crypt's Garage Punk Unknowns). I Can't Let Go b/w Don'tcha Feel Like Cryin' was their second single and it was released on Bullet (and then rereleased on Buddah).
From the first needle drop I was floored: The fuzz guitar, the Joey Ramone style vocals, the blast of horns... This is garage pop classic! What does I Can't Let Go sound like? You know, I don't remember. I think I've played it twice in ten years. On to Bruce:
My introduction to Bruce Carlson and the Ye Olde Record Shoppe came through much hard work. Though Bruce had been dealing records since 1984, it wasn't until '92 that a couple of friends, Scott Miller & Micah Kennedy (of Tiki Men fame NOT Game Theory) stumbled into the Record Shoppe on the way home from a camping trip. Word traveled that someone had found a goldmine. However, Miller & Micah wouldn't reveal the location. We tried prodding them when they were drunk, stoned, and we got nothing. So like explorers of yore, a couple of us set out to find this Shangra-La.
One spring day, Dave Smith and I hopped into one of his hot rods and headed east. We had no idea where we were going but we knew that we would find the store. Before we left, we tried once again to pry the location of the store out of the finders. We leaned on one of their girlfriends but she wouldn't spill. "I can't remember the name of the town," was all we got. Placerville? "No." Shingle Springs? "No." Whiskeytown? "I don't remember." Fuck it, let's go. Slamming a Boys tape in the tape player, we took off down Highway 16 toward Jackson. There was once a record store in Jackson, I remembered. Maybe that was the one. A couple hours, a few thrift stores and a yard sale later, we were in Jackson. However the record store wasn't. The shop I had remembered was history. We drove back scoreless, except for a 1950s handbill for some drag show that Dave found at a rummage sale.
The next weekend we set out again. And again we worked on the finders and their gals. Truckee? "No." Soda Springs? "No." Auburn? "I don't think so." Arrrggghh!!! We ruled out Grass Valley and Nevada City. I was familiar with what was up there. So that left us the I-50 corridor.
Off we went, hitting all the towns and suburbs east of Sacramento - El Dorado Hills, Cameron Park, Rescue...until, finally, Diamond Springs. Off the freeway and onto the main road into town, we saw a music store and a bit off from the music store, in a old rundown strip of storefronts, in a dusty lot, was a record store.
We parked the car and went into the place. There were records everywhere. Bin after bin of LPs and along the walls boxes and boxes of 45s. Though the place looked chaotic and had a peculiar smell of rat piss, it was meticulously organized. Every 45 and LP was either filled alphabetically or each band had a box of its own. We found what we'd been seeking, the Ye Olde Record Shoppe.
That day Dave and I dug and dug. We pulled out records and laughed. Hey, Dave which one of these Devo records you want? The picture disc with the promo flexi or the Brit pressing with the promo poster? "How much is the picture disc?" Five bucks. "I'll take that then." Hey, look a Japanese pressing of the first Clash LP with an insert...I think I spent about $75 that day. Dave dropped about $50. Between us, we took home about 40 records. That score wasn't just a one time event. In the nine years I went up to Bruce's, I left only once without a record. And very few times did I leave without Bruce tapping me for $20.
Even as the store's existence became widely known among record geeks (in the liner notes of DJ Shadow's Private Press, he dedicates the record to Bruce, among others), our fishing hole was still well stocked. As Bruce said, he was the only used record dealer in 3 counties, at least the only one who looked at records not as a way to make a fortune but to make a living. Bruce priced his stuff to sell. Rarely was a record more than $4.50. And every 45 went for $1, no matter the condition. So you could not only find real rarities for cheap, but you could fill in gaps in your record collection, standard things like a Marvin Gaye greatest hits, for very little. But, most important, Bruce priced things so that if you wanted to take a chance on something that you never heard before, some obscure, no-name, self-released 45, you could and it wouldn't be a waste. Bruce encouraged you to discover music, not just through dropping hints but by making it affordable to experiment.
Though Bruce had an encyclopedic knowledge of music, he was always eager to know more. He'd look at the records I'd dig up with a Hmmmmm or an Ohhhhhh or a That's a good one or a What's this one? We would talk about the record biz about music. He'd curse his failing health, about how he hated to be wheelchair bound, or grumble about the last helper who filed all the Rolling Stones under "S" because he thought that was their last name. A few years after my first visit, Bruce stopped totaling my records. He'd trust me to do it myself and then knock off about 20%. I never ripped him off. Why would I?
I could go on and on about my experiences at Bruce's, about how I'd spend hours pouring though his 45s, the joy in finding real gems, or coming home, dropping a needle in the groove and, oh my god, this is amazing...
I would take out of town visitors up to show them what a real treasure hunt was. Friends knew that all they had to say was "Hey, Scott, wanna go to Diamond Springs?" and I'd fire up the Toyota and we'd be on our way. We'd talk music all the way up and compare scores on the way home.
Don't go to Diamond Springs looking for Ye Olde Record Shoppe. It's gone. Bruce died in the store he loved. He had no next of kin so the county auctioned the store off for a whole $4000. That was about six years ago.
So trapped in the grooves of this Nobody's Children record are a whole lot of memories. It's these things that make me dig through boxes of records. Plowing through a dusty stack is something point/click/download will never ever be able to replicate. MP3s are a nice thing and all but I'll never get misty over Soulseek. I am sure that every record fiend reading this will agree that this obsession is more than about the game at the end of the hunt. It is just as much about the hunt itself.