Wild Kingdom Roma-Destiny flexi disc (No Mag, 1981)
Here's a little gem that I know nothing about. It came with a great Los Angeles punk/new wave zine called No Mag, though I found it in a box of books at a yard sale, with no zine in sight. I have seen the name Wild Kingdom on old flyers, but until I scrounged this flexi up I hadn't heard them. I've scoured the net for info on them, plowed through old Flipside, Search & Destroy, BravEar, & the few Slash magazines I have and learned nothing. So you get what I know: The music.
Starting with an off drum, the song jumps into an odd intro, something that seems to be setting the stage for a grand play. And when the song shifts that is what happen. Sounding like Roxy Music filtered through early Wall of Voodoo, Wild Kingdom takes the vocals from declairation to a melody that sounds like Fly Me to The Moon to a Bryan Ferry style wail. Meanwhile the music pulsates and shifts, the frantic beat smoothed over by a stark but warm synth. A guitar accents and then rips into a Manzanera like solo. And then the outro, which sounds like the intro. A perfect piece of art rock gone new wave.
(Get off that) Booze & Garlic Bread
Denny Rockwell (Get off that) Booze & Garlic Bread (Tower, 196?)
Here is a mystery record. What I know is this: Prior to Booze & Garlic Bread, Denny Rockwell was part of a due called Denny & Jay with John Cubbage, who I assume was Jay. In 1964, they released one 45 on Capitol (Hurt b/w Two Lies), which is supposed to be pop.
This 45 came out on Tower, which probably explains its garage-out-of-the-studio sound. There is a lot to like about this one but it is the combination of the dopey lyrics and the Lux Interior - style vocals that does it for me.
And that is all I have to write today.
Ray Barretto 1929 - 2006
Ray Barretto Cocinando 45 (Fania, 1972)
One of my favorite musicians, Ray Barretto, died on February 17. An percussion inovator, Barretto revolutionized both Latin music and jazz in the 1960s. His album Acid is one monster of a record and recommended to any Latin, jazz, funk or soul fan. For a propper send off, please go here.
Below is something I posted October 7, 2005. Rerun today in memory of a music great.
I am guessing that the first time I heard Latin music was watching Desi Arnez on I Love Lucy. I know the second time I heard it was in high school when I found a 45 of Perez Prado's Mambo Jambo at the school's jury-rigged, 50 watt radio "station" i.e. a few storage rooms with some ancient radio gear in it. The rhythm of it was pretty infectuous and I showed my obsession with it by slapping it on a turntable in the classroom next to the "station" and doing a dance. What kind of dance? I don't think it had a name but it was pretty much some kind of smart ass, teenage jig or a demented softshoe. I could do it for you if you were here because I still have the record, or at least I have the song.
I found the song on a Prado album that I bought in the mid-1980s when burned out on punk rock youngsters such as I started digging through thrift stores for exotica albums. I was in some store, remembered the name Perez Prado so I when I stumbled upon a copy of his Big Hits I bought it, listened to it and liked it.
The next Latin record I bought was Cal Tjader's Mambo with Tjader. Impossible to pass up for the cover alone, it is my favorite Tjader album. Unlike Prado, Tjader is a bit more hip. His band is smaller, the recording is more immediate, and there certainly is more of an edge to it than with Prado. From Tjader it was Tito Puente, Mongo Santamaria, and Willie Bobo. However I didn't flip for Latin until I found The Hustler by Willie Colon.
The Hustler came to me via a girlfriend. We were staying with her husband's ex in Santa Cruz, while on our way to Southern California. I was flipping through records at the house and the ex told us that they were my then-girlfriend's dad's and to take what we wanted. The Hustler was one that went home. I could write pages on that record, but I will just note that it is one of my top five records of all time and it sent me on a frantic search for more.
Until The Hustler (and the Fania All Stars' Latin-Soul-Rock and a few other LPs), I passed up Latin stuff. Not anymore. Record stores, thrift stores, flea markets - I scoured everything. But finding good New York salsa music on the West Coast is tough. Though there is a large Spanish speaking population here, the Chicano population has long been hooked on oldies. The Mexicanos tend toward Norteno. And when you do find salsa it is usually later Celia Cruz or Ruben Blades album not the raw, soulful stuff.
Ray Barretto is certainly not obscure: he is one of the heavies of New York salsa. His Cocinando 45 has been in my constant rotation since I picked it up at a flea market with a stack of Latin 45s five years ago. The record might not be easy to track down but I am sure this has been reissued in one form or another. Like all the great stuff from that period, Cocinando has a nice deep, dark groove and violent horns. This is a dance floor filler.
A Pair for the Weekend
Flavor Shop Around b/w Sally Had a Party 45 (Columbia, 1968)
Way, way back in September I plugged this puppy, writing that Flavor's version of the Motown standard Shop Around was "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." My thoughts certainly haven't changed, though I'd add that this sounds like what the MC5 were going for with Back in the USA, but which Jon Landau's weak production couldn't deliver.
Flavor were a short live band were connected to Tim O'Brien and Gary St. Clair. They released one album, this single and that was it. A few years later St. Clair did a solo album with O'Brien producing. Other than their own work, O'Brien and St. Clair also penned and produced songs for the Brady Bunch and one a Grammy for their work with All-4-One.
And that is about it.
3 Love Songs
G. L. Crockett Every Hour, Every Day (4 Brothers, 1964)
Alan Knight Chills (Tide, 196?)
Jay & the Techniques Stronger than Dirt (Smash, 1967)
For Valentine's Day, I give you three love songs. It should be no surprise that they are older R&B songs, for R&B is a genre heavy in love songs.
First off, you get a record that is reported to be in John Peel's record box, a small crate full of records that the great dejay cherrished. GL Crockett and the Chicago label, 4 Brothers, had a national hit with the song It's a Man Down There, a good bluesy rocker in the style of Jimmy Reed. However, as I've often written in these pages, it is the flipside that is the keeper. Every Hour, Every Day starts off with a nice sweet, almost hessitant guitar line and then it shuffles into a great groove and stays there. The guitar riffs, the backing vocals swing, and the piano plinks about. Half way through the song, the bass comes to the front. Crockett improvs over the whole thing. It is one of my favorite R&B songs, up there with Rosie & the Originals' Give Me Love and the Carter Brothers' Do the Flo Show, both songs which this resembles.
All I know of Alan Knight or his song Chills is that it came on the Los Angeles label, Tide, and sounds like it was influenced by my favorite soul singer, Little Willie John. Other than that I draw a blank. But before I move on to the third record, let me give a plug for Los Angeles R&B. I was in my favorite record store and the proprietor was playing a Flip Records comp and commented on how LA R&B doesn't get the props it deserves. That's all I want to say about that right now.
You should already know about Jay & the Techniques. This Allentown, Pennsylvania soul band had a big hit with Apples, Peaches, Pumpkin Pie and later with Strawberry Shortcake. Did you know that the group was integrated? Only the lead vocalists Jay Proctor & Lucky Lloyd are Black. The rest of the band are White. Does this matter? Only if we want more proof that good music is color blind. Stronger than Dirt is the flipside to the hit Apple, Peaches... and is very easy to find. The 90s garage punk band The Mummies did a great version of it on their Never Been Caught LP.
La Luna Fettuccine
Adore O'Hare La Luna Fettuccine 7" (Hit and Run, 1983)
Adore O'Hare's one and only record is a difficult record to peg. There are four genres it could fit in. The first thing you hear in the record is that O'Hare is singing opera; however, give it time and it is easy to figure out that this is smart ass opera and could easily qualify as gay camp, a tradition that, on record, goes back to at least Rae Bourbon and Charles Pierce and their fantastic cabaret/comedy records of the 1950s & 60s. La Luna Fettuccine also rests comfortably as a private press or outsider record, an individualistic musical vision as distinct as Lucia Pamela or Abner Jay. And, finally, O'Hare could be filed away in and actually existed on the fringes of the late 70s/early 80s LA art punk scene, where he played shows with Monitor, Wall of Voodoo, and Red Wedding.
So who was Adore O'Hare? I have no idea. References to Adore online are limited to a show review ("Closely cropped green hair, dressed in layers of scarves and multi-colored paraphernalia over the traditional jacket and tie, this large and imposing figure captivated an audience that most performers would think twice before facing - the weekend crowd at the Brave Dog") and the website of Hit & Run Records owner (who also drives racing cars) Elektra Anderson. (Just as curious as Adore O'Hare's record, is Hit & Run's other record, the debut 7" by Mad Society, the band known for having a 13 year old singer. Why Anderson chose to showcase the talent of a cross-dressing opera singer and a 13 year old punk singer are perhaps answered by reading her bio on Elekra's website.)
Bucky Miserlou 45 (Decca, 1968)
If you have a pulse and are even slightly aware of what goes on in popular culture, you know of the recent movie, Brokeback Mountain. It is the tale of two cowboys who fall in love. The Christer Right is in a big tizzy about it because it humanizes gay people. Our American Taliban dislikes nothing more than the notion that gay people are indeed people and are very much "normal," i.e. middleclass & respectful.
Christers aren't the only ones upset about Brokeback Mountain. Some queers are pissed off about the movie because it is pretty much a heterosexual interpretation of "Gay love," tailored for a straight audience, much like Philadelphia was a decade or so ago. Members of the "Gay community" tell their queer friends to hush. Any positive portrayal of "Gay love" in mainstream culture is welcome and debates over whether the Brokebackers should go bareback need to be silenced.
You can count me among those pissed off about Brokeback Mountain. My anger comes not from a thunderbolt thrown at me by a Sky God. Nor am I enraged because "chaps" on Brokeback Mountain are for riding horses not Hoss's. My mittens are muffled because as much as everyone says Brokeback Mountain is a Gay cowboy movie it fucking isn't. A cowboy movie involves gun play, horse whippin, gold, whores, booze, and greed. It is not a couple of blokes in cowboy hats, living out West, with the hots for one another. When I hear the words "Gay cowboy movie" I expect Sam Fuller meets Derek Jarman or John Ford goes Cocteau or The Wild Bunch starring Divine, not Merchant Ivory paints Wyoming lavender. Really, if I wanna see men in cowboy hats kissing all I have to do is walk a couple blocks to Sacramento's Gay bar district and I'm in the not-so-Wild West. When you say Gay cowboy movie, I expect man on man AND man kill man, cow and donkey punching (as well as some cactus and rattlesnakes). And I might have found it.
Made in 1968, The Ruthless Four (AKA Ognuno Per Se) is a Spaghetti Western staring Van Heflin, George Hilton, Gilbert Roland, and the always entertaining Klaus Kinski. The story goes something like this: Sam Cooper (Helflin) finds a bunch of gold out in the desert. He beats down his partner and tries to get to town to exchange his gold for green. On the way, he is jumped, assaulted, and hunt down. He survives but loses the gold. In town, he decides he needs some help so he grabs Manolo (Hilton), who is both Cooper's adopted son and ex-lover. There is a problem, since Cooper's been away Manolo has a new rhinestone cowboy and his name is Blondie (Kinski, of course!). Manolo won't go unless Blondie gets to come along. Of course, Blondie is a psychopath, a meshigener that cannot be trusted; so Cooper brings along another ex-lover, Mason (Roland). Unknown to Cooper, Mason thinks Cooper finked him out, sending Mason to prison where he gets a nasty case of malaria. This merry bunch of misfits heads out to the desert to find gold. And instead of nervous hand holding and fretful snuggling, these Gay cowboys slit each other's throats! Jealousy, greed, gold and gun fights, just what Giorgio Capitani intended! Brokeback Mountain be damned!
So what does this real Gay cowboy movie have to do with the record ypu see above? Well, the version of Misirlou done here was used as the theme for The Ruthless Four. The name under the title on the label is "John and Mary;" however John and Mary did not write the song, make the music or produce this track. I believe the label used the name "John and Mary" because the song on the A side is entitled "John and Mary." The song Misirlou was written by Nicolas Roubanis (not Dick Dale as many think) and published back in the 1930s. This version was produced by Ivan Mogull, a song plugger who was to become a very wealthy publisher and producer, working with folks like Frank Sinatra and Tommy Dorsey.
At the bottom of the label it reads "Music by Bucky." After some research, I am going to take a big guess and give Bucky a full name. That name is John "Bucky" Wilkins. Bucky is also known as Ronny Dayton of Ronny & the Daytonas, hot rod music legends. Besides the Daytonas, Bucky has done tons of session work, much of it in Nashville.
On this version of Misirlou, Bucky plays it as stark as the deserts of Italy. While the guitar anchors the song, the drums are the lead instrument. There is no straight beat here, but rather something that sounds like intuition mixed with a dose of tribalism. The drummer's rawness keeps this thing primitive, so much so that when the percussion swells in the middle of the song, I expect to hear someone scream "Kill the Fascists" ala Savage Republic. Like many of you, I've heard the Dick Dale version of Misirlou a zillion times. I've also heard many, many more renditions. This one has to be my favorite of them all.
The Last Album
Albert Ayler The Last Album LP (Impulse, 1969)
In a musical life that was pretty much controversial from the start it seems absurd that Ayler's most controversial period was that right after Coltrane died, when he released New Grass and Music is the Healing Force of the Universe. Joined by guitarist Henry Vestine (formerly of the Mothers of Invention and taking a break from Canend Heat), Ayler's take on funk and the blues lead many fans to scream "SELL OUT." But what these folks failed to see is that the number one theme with Ayler always was exploring his and jazz's musical roots. Sooner or later that was bound to take him to R&B and the blues. Perhaps the uproar was over the presence of Henry Vestine, a knowledgeable but pretty staid blues/rock guitarist. (Legend goes that an interviewer once asked Vestine if he could play with anyone, who would it be. "Albert Ayler," he replied. Ayler read it, tracked down Vestine and invited him to jam.) Another thing his critics over looked was that part of Ayler's "sell out" consisted of his embrace of the fucking bag-pipes! How this fusion of blues jam and pig squeal was to ever account for commercial success or mainstream acceptance, I don't know. But it does speak volumes of the mental state (assume psychedelic) of some of Albert's more hardcore detractors.
Here is one of my favorite bag-pipe blues jams. It is just Ayler and Vestine, no sidemen. Ayler wails away on his bloated leather bag, while Vestine nods off at the fret board. When I first heard this years ago, my first question was "What were they thinking?" It is a question I still have yet to answer. The more I listen to this song the stranger it gets...and the more I like it. This is a puzzle.