Before They Were Famous
Before They Were Famous.
Another 'bakers dozen' from my vinyl collection, this time looking at the very beginnings of some of the most well known figures in rock (plus a couple from outside of that genre too) from the last sixty years on some of the tracks they may not want you to hear or are lost in the mists of time. There were plenty of others who could have made the list from my collection.... The VIP's (Keith Emerson), Davy Jones (Bowie), Wilson Pickett, Paul Raven (the now disgraced GG), Stone Roses, Byrds and others, but for brevity, here's my initial selection.
If you have some hidden early treasures... why not let the club members hear 'em?
Rolling Stones: 'Baby what's wrong'. Recorded IBC Studios. London 28th Jan to 2nd Feb 1963. Unreleased.
This track, by the second most well known band in the world, is taken from the classic 'Bright Lights, Big City' bootleg which I purchased around 25 to 30 years ago. There's a good selection of tracks here, featuring five of the six IBC Studio demo's (the first time the 'full' Stones line up, including Ian Stewart on piano, entered a studio), four unreleased gems from their groundbreaking 1964 visit to Chess Studios and four from the rehearsals for 1972's US tour, including two versions of 'Tumbling Dice', which were subsequently shown on the Old Grey Whistle Test. Strangely, the Stones fixation with Chuck Berry doesn't seem to have kicked in at this initial recording session as the songs laid down were two each from Jimmy Reed and Bo Diddley and one from Willie Dixon. 'Baby, what's wrong' was a staple of the Stone's live set from their earliest gigs and it's something of a surprise that it didn't feature on their debut album or initial EP releases. There's a great guitar intro, Jagger is in fine 'mock' blues vox and Brian blows heartily (as only he could at that time!) on mouth-harp. Disappointingly, new recruit Bill Wyman can hardly be heard but, at that time, the recording of bass frequencies was pretty poor in most UK studios. Dick Taylor, later to found the Pretty Things, had recently returned to university and when Bill attended the rehearsal armed with a surfeit of cigarettes and a brand new bass amp, he barely had to plug in to pass the audition. It did help, of course, that by that time he was a well established bass guitarist too. Such was the popularity of 'Baby...' on the UK blues scene that the Animals, Yardbirds and others all recorded their versions over the next eighteen months but this is probably the best of the bunch. There is, however, a really excellent version that I heartily recommend by Lonnie Mack on his tremendous 'The Wham of that Memphis man' album which probably out-shines the Stones cut. The 'Bright lights....' album is a great bootleg, minus a couple of points for the tape wobble at the beginning of side one's first track and the extraneous take of 'Tumbling Dice' but, until the Stones release their 'anthology' of the copious out-takes they have, this one will do very nicely, thankyou!
(NB: In the 'Can blue men.....' Part One article I stated 'Come On' was recorded at this session...… it wasn't!!! I also gave the recording date for 'Roadrunner' as 11th March 1963 whereas it was also laid down between the dates above. The actual date/location for 'Come On' was 2nd May 1963 at Olympic Sound Studio)
The Emergency Crew: 'Mind Bender (Confusion Prince)'. Recorded 3/11/65 Golden State Recorders. From 'The Emergency Crew' bootleg.
Another 'bootleg' recording in my possession for many years but this has since been released officially on the excellent 'Birth of the Dead' CD. The Deadheads amongst you will know that the first verified live performance of this song was January 7, 1966, at The Matrix, in San Francisco and the only other known performance was on February 23, 1966, at the Dead's rehearsal room in Berkeley. Back in 1964, itinerant blue grass guitarist Jerry Garcia decided to form a band and, looking around at who was playing the same circuit, he enlisted Bob Weir on guitar, washboard and assorted percussion and Ron 'Pigpen' McKernan on harmonica, organ and vocals. Making up the numbers were Dave Parker, Tom Stone and Mike Garbett. Christened Mother McCree's Uptown Jug Champions, the band became popular with students at the Stanford University and, as a result, two students (Pete Wanger and Wayne Ott) taped the band at the 'Top of the Tangent' coffee house in Palo Alto in July, 1964 (released 1999). By early 1965 the band had recognised the effect the 'British Invasion' bands were having on the US record market and that the chances of improving their situation were limited by playing 'jug band' music based on music from the 1920/30's and obscure mountain songs. At Pigpens insistence, Garcia agreed to form an 'electric blues band' and relocate to San Francisco where they signed up Phil Lesh (bass) and Bill Kreutzmann (drums). May the 5th 1965 saw the band debut at Magoo's Pizza Parlour in Menlo Park as the Warlocks but, by December 1965, a rival band, also named the Warlocks but based in NYC, had released a single. That band soon changed its name to The Falling Spikes before re-naming themselves after Michael Leigh's notorious 'trash' novel about the 'secret sexual subculture of the early 1960s' entitled 'The Velvet Underground'. Various stories regarding the re-christening of the Warlocks abound, the most popular theories are 1). Jerry Garcia picked up a copy of the Britannica World Language Dictionary and alighted on the phrase 'The Grateful Dead' (def: "the soul of a dead person, or his angel, showing gratitude to someone who, as an act of charity, arranged their burial") or 2). According to Garcia himself , he found the name in the Funk & Wagnalls Folklore Dictionary, when his finger landed on that phrase while playing a game of Fictionary. Whatever the truth (the band were heavily into psychedelics by this time!), between December 4th's gig at Ken Kesey's second 'Acid Test' and the 11th's third 'Test' they were due to appear at a benefit for the San Francisco Mime Troup arranged by Bill Graham at the Fillmore. Billed as The Warlocks, Graham took umbrage (something he was not averse to) over the name change as, at great expense, an onstage easel with those appearing had been prepared. Weir quickly suggested that the bands old name be replaced and, in place of the bands photo, the phrase 'Formerly The Warlocks' be added. Despite this simple solution, the matter seemed to rankle Graham and became the basis for a long running feud between the two parties. Back to 'Mind Bender', this is possibly the earliest song relating to the 'acid experience' in the Dead's early work. Never renowned for their vocal prowess, the dual vocals by Jerry and Phil do sound a little 'strained' but, on the plus side, Pigpens excellent organ playing is a real highlight. There is also a fine solo where Garcia presents us with a short 'eastern' style break in an almost Byrds influenced '8 Miles High' mode. As this was recorded before Garcia embarked on his lengthy practice routines it would be another year before he would begin taking his guitar solo's to another dimension which would ensure the band's legendary status. The 'Emergency Crew' name, by the way, comes from the fact that the band had not even come up with the 'Grateful Dead' name at the time they recorded 'out of hours' at Golden Gate Recorders under the watchful eye of producer Sylvester (Sly) Stone.
The Golliwogs: Don't tell me no lies'. Released November 1964. Fantasy label single. This from 'The Golliwogs: Pre Creedence' US release album.
Not the very earliest recordings by this bands members, there were six singles on Oaklands Orchestra label as, variously, Tom Fogerty and the Blue Velvets or the Blue Violets in the 1961 to '62 period before the band went back to the garage for some serious re-thinking and rehearsals for the next eighteen months. During this period Stu Cook moved from piano to bass and, whilst Tom perfected his rhythm guitar skills, his brother John honed his lead guitar technique. Presumably drummer Doug Clifford did what all drummers do during a lull in the proceedings...… In early 1964 the band approached Max Weiss, co-owner of the local Fantasy label, who had seen the effect the Beatles et al were having on the American music scene and were quickly signed up. The band had been attracted to Fantasy as the label had just scored a national hit with Vince Gauraldi's original version of 'Cast your fate to the wind' as well as being the home to many of the late fifties/early sixties modern jazz players including Dave Brubeck, Chet Baker and Gerry Mulligan. Although the band recorded 'Don't tell me no lies' and its flip 'Little girl (does your momma know?)' in March 1964, it would be November '64 before it was eventually released. Initially, Weiss had wanted to issue the single under the guise of The Visions but, eventually, The Golliwogs moniker (a once popular child's doll dressed as a black minstrel) was chosen and perhaps that's where the delay occurred? However, by delaying from, say, an April '64 release until November, this 'There's a place' clone already sounded out of date (the recording date for 'There's a place' had, in fact, been 11th February 1963) but that's not to take anything away from this good example of UK styled 'beat music'. Many other US bands were 'pastiching' the Beatles including the Turtles (initially as The Tyrtles!), The Knickerbockers (whose 'Lies' is the best song Lennon/Macca never wrote), The Gants rather errr, wonderful 'I wonder' and, probably the most well known... The Byrds. A further six singles were released on Fantasy and Scorpio over the next three years, with only August 1965's 'Brown eyed girl'* seeing any belated action (in Miami's 'regional breakout' chart February 1966) before the band re-issued their final single, November 1967's 'Porterville' under their new name, Creedence Clearwater Revival. By this time John Fogerty had taken control of the group, writing all of their material, singing lead vocals, and blossoming into a multi-instrumentalist who played keyboards, harmonica, and saxophone in addition to lead guitar. Of course, this change led, for a couple of years, to world domination as one of the earliest bands to return to the 'roots' of rock and roll before 'sibling rivalry' (eat your hearts out Liam and Noel!) split the group apart.
* Not to be confused with Van Morrison's 'Brown eyed girl' from March 1967. However, the Golliwogs song appears to be a 're-write' of Them's garage favourite 'Gloria' so perhaps Morrison 'borrowed' the title from the Golliwogs?
Baby Ray and the Ferns: 'How's your bird?'. Donna Records. Released April 1963. This from 'Rare Meat' Del-Fi mini album released 1983.
Again, although this may not be the earliest recording to feature Frank Zappa, it's certainly the earliest in my possession. 'How's your bird' was the catch phrase of TV, radio and recording artist Steve Allen who, in addition to co-creating the late night talk programme 'The Tonight Show' and hosting 'Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts', ran his own, top rated 'The Steve Allen Show' and 'I've got a secret' as well as composing around 8,500 jazz tunes for his own band!! So, how come FZ is involved? Well, according to Ray (Collins, early Mothers of Invention vocalist), he was drinking in Pomona's Sportsman Bar where Frank and his band were playing. After a raucous version of 'Work with me Annie', Ray, who had never sung before, stumbled on stage and joined in. Frank asked Ray to join the band and whether he had any ideas for a song..... 'How about 'How's your bird?' was Rays suggestion and, sure enough, a few days later, FZ phoned to say 'I wrote it, let's record it'. As Paul Buff's PAL Recording Studio (soon to be FZ's infamous Studio Z) in Cucamonga was in possession of a very early multi-track (5) recording machine, FZ laid down the guitar and bass parts, back up vocals and 'snorks' and, with Buff on piano and Ray on lead vocals, proceeded to record this 'sort of' doo-wop/early rock 'n roll tribute to Steve Allen. It's not known how many copies were pressed but original versions do crop up occasionally and generally fetch in excess of $600. Strangely, FZ's first TV appearance was on The Steve Allen Show in late March/early April 1963 where both Steve and FZ attempt to good naturedly out wise-crack each other, ending up with an honourable score draw! The b-side to this disc is the theme (of sorts) to Franks (still) unreleased film 'The Worlds Greatest Sinner', another outing for Franks favourite 'trash rock' style which he incorporated/returned to throughout his career..
Bonus track: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y9P2V0_p6vE
OK..... time for the UK, and let's start with a couple of female singers:
Sandy Denny: 'The False Bride.' Recorded 22nd March 1967. Taken from 'Alex Campbell and his friends' album. Saga Records. Released mid 1967.
Sandy's first experience in the studios, alongside some of her friends from the London folk clubs including the venerable Mr Campbell, Paul McNeill, Cliff Aungier and Johnny Silvo with his Folk Group. Campbell (also known as 'Big Daddy') was a pivotal figure in the folk revival during the 1950's. After moving to France in the late 40's, Campbell regularly returned to perform at Alexis Korner's early blues and barrelhouse venues, singing Leadbelly songs and inspiring Wizz Jones and Davey Graham to relocate to Paris. It was here that one of Campbell's strangest escapades were enacted. Although Campbell had formed an association with Ewan MacColl they did not see eye to eye on the direction folk should take. MacColl met, fell in love and impregnated Peggy Seeger, even though he was already married. When Seeger's visa expired, Campbell offered to marry her in Paris, thus saving her from deportation!! The ceremony over (24th January 1959) Seeger then returned to London and MacColl!!! For the rest of his career Campbell was responsible for bringing many aspiring folk artists to the publics attention such as Dave Cousins (whose Strawbs would ask Sandy to join them later in 1967) and Martin Carthy. Denny had started at Kingston College of Art in 1965 and it was here that she began to sing at the campus folk club. Also at the College at this time was future Pentangle-er John Renbourn. Further gigs followed, including The Barge folk club in Kingston and, on 2nd December 1966, Sandy performed the first of her many sessions on the BBC's 'Folk Song Cellar' programme. Her recordings with Alex followed a few months later and consisted of the traditional ballad 'The False Bride', her current boyfriend Jackson C Franks 'You never wanted me' and the almost skiffle-ish 'This Train' backed by the Johnny Silvo Folk Group. Ignoring the frenetic latter song, the other two are prime Sandy Denny performances and it was a close run thing which one to include. Here, though, Denny's voice is spectacular and a clear pre-cursor to many of her later Fairport classic performances and, as a bonus, we're treated to a warm voiced introduction from 'Big Daddy' himself. Spellbinding stuff!!
Shirley Bassey: 'My body's more important than my mind'. Recorded October 1956. Released early 1957. Philips label.
Back in 1957, rock ' roll was in its infancy; a squalling, noisy infancy for sure and a time when new and established (US) 'stars' were having to make some choices about the material and style they were recording and singing live. Here in the UK, Bill Haley and his Comets had just come off a run of ten Top 20 hits and Elvis had achieved around fifteen, including eleven in the Top 10. Shirley and her management were having to make the same decisions about which audience to try to appeal to. Her manager and her arranger, Mike Sullivan and Johnny Franz recognised that although Shirley was only 20 years old, her voice (and vocal style) would be better suited aimed at the 'mature' (and, presumably, male) audience and launched her recording career with the suggestive 'Burn my candle'. Although not a hit, the BBC promptly banned it on its day of release and, de-facto, proved that Sullivan's choice was probably the right one. Bassey had signed her first contract in 1953 (aged 16) and was soon a regular on the touring revues and stage shows until, in late 1955, Johnny Franz saw her in a televised Jack Hylton musical and signed her to a recording contract with Philips. However, it would be early 1957 when she had her first hit single, 'The Banana Boat Song' which led to recording sessions with Mitch Mitchell in the US and important dates at Las Vegas' El Rancho Vegas nightclub later that year. In between, she was booked for an extended run at London's Café De Paris, a plush basement off Piccadilly which was a haunt for Cole Porter, Marlene Dietrich and Noel Coward. The venue had remained open during the War until two bombs scored a direct hit on the dancefloor killing bandleader Ken 'Snakehips' Johnson (Britain's first black bandleader), his band and eighty audience members. The club had been fully renovated by the eccentric Major Neville-Willing as an exclusive retreat and it took a whole summer of 1957 for Mike Sullivan to secure the booking for the still teenage Bassey. Sullivan decided that Bassey's role model for these shows would be the ultra-risqué Eartha Kitt but, importantly, he also decided that new material would be required too. Sullivan contacted Ian Grant (composer of 'Let there be love') and he furnished the subtly titled 'Sex' and 'My body's more important than my mind' for the show, both of which were designed solely to titillate the audience and enhance Bassey's undoubted sexuality which, as you can hear yourself, literally pours out in this knowing but lighthearted delivery by Bassey (As an aside... I wonder why Marilyn Monroe didn't cover this in the US... now there's a thought!). Revealing costumes were specially designed for the show accentuating Bassey's 'charms' and respected pianist Les Paul (not that one!) was bought in as lead accompanist. Neville-Willing decided to make the opening night 'invitation only' to the aristocracy, the well heeled, show business personalities and the 'socially acceptable'. Bassey was warned that she would probably be expected to dine with nobility and protested that 'there are too many knives and forks, I wouldn't know what to do', so cue rapid table etiquette lessons in a nearby restaurant! Despite last minute nerves, Bassey's season at the Café was a resounding success, reflected in the recording of the live EP and, as a result of the success, Bassey was booked for engagements in Paris, New York and Hollywood. Following this route to notoriety Bassey then recorded the song which really launched her as a 'serious' singer. Still in her act to this day, 'As I love you' had begun life as the b-side to 'Hands across the sea' (a small hit when released early 1958) until a London Palladium show propelled the song, and singer into the general publics attention.
Skipping forward two decades.....
Warsaw. 'At a later date'. Recorded 18th July 1977. Released on 'The Ideal Beginning' EP Enigma label. Released April 1981.
Right from the opening, primal scream (of whom more in a moment or two) of the bands name ("Warsawwwwwww"), here was a band determined to carry forward the UK 'punk' ideals to new levels. The EP, released around three years after the bands similarly titled debut EP (An ideal for living), featured three previously unheard tracks from the bands initial sessions at Oldham's Pennine Sounds studio with a similar number, 2000 only, being pressed. The sleeve design apes the initial release where, strangely, the initial (Warsaw) release featured the words 'Joy Division' on the sleeve but here were replaced with the bands name at the time, Warsaw!. Furthermore, although the label purports to be an 'official' Enigma release, it's Manchester's Chaos Cassettes who actually pressed up the disc and sleeve. John West of Chaos explained it was "'An underground collectors edition. We only had 2000 pressed so that it would remain collectable. It was done with the approval of the group's management...…. We did it just to show people what early Joy Division were like". In fact, royalties were actually paid to the bands management which would seem to give the release at least semi-legit status. Back to Warsaw, the band, and the 20th July 1976 saw the Sex Pistols, Slaughter and the Dogs plus the newly formed Buzzcocks play Manchester's Lesser Free Trade Hall to a packed audience. Amongst them were Bernard Sumner, Peter Hook and friend Terry Mason who had all attended the earlier, 4th June Pistols gig and decided to form a band. Also in attendance were Ian Curtis and his wife Deborah and, in conversation with Bernard and Co, Ian revealed he had been writing lyrics for some time and was looking to join a band. Rehearsals began in earnest at Salfords Black Swan in late 1976/early '77 but it would be 29th May 1977 before they made their live debut at the Manchester Electric Circus supporting the Buzzcocks. Despite beings advertised as The Stiff Kittens, the band had decided on the Warsaw moniker (after the Bowie track 'Warszawa' on the 'Low' album) and had a new, short term drummer in Tony Tabac. The gig attracted the attention of the national music mags but reviews were not very flattering for the band. Further gigs followed, Tabac was replaced by Steve Brotherdale (who played on this EP) and Martin Hannett took over management of the bands gigs. DJ-ing at many of these gigs was Rob Gretton and it was Gretton who became the bands manager. By October 2nd's gig for the closure of the Electric Circus new drummer Steven Morris had replaced Brotherdale and it was this line up that remained unchanged until Ian Curtis' death. Selected for the Circus farewell V/A 'live' album was this raw punker which, on this studio demo version, has Curtis in full Iggy/Rotten vox, great bass from Hookey and some good guitar work from Bernie. Brotherhoods drumming sounds very like the style Morris would bring to the band in it's early days after January 1978 as Joy Division, a name which they plucked from Karol Cetinsky's novel 'The House of Dolls' (Joy Division being the name given to concentration camp females forced into prostitution by their guards) and, coupled with the imagery of the first EP, saw the band wrongly labelled as promoting Nazism. All the pieces were now in place, except an entry into the 'real' world of proper gigs, a recording contract and, essentially, a way of publicising themselves outside of a coterie of ardent fans. That chance came when arch-publicist and Granada TV not so 'enfant terrible' Tony Wilson was button-holed by the band at the nascent Factory nightclub. The band argued that it was his duty to promote the local music scene and, won over by their sincerity, he featured them on 'Granada Reports' on 20th September 1978. Within weeks, Wilson, his business partner Alan Erasmus and graphic designer Peter Saville formed Factory Records and signed the band, releasing two tracks by the new line up on their initial various artist album which quickly sold out. From there, thanks in no small part to a full cover spread of Curtis on the NME front page in January 1979 and a Peel Session in early February, the band began it's inexorable progress towards critical and public acclaim and, unfortunately, Ian Curtis' suicide.
And forward almost another decade.....
Primal Scream. 'Spirea X'. Recorded February 1986. Released April 1986. Creation Records.
Gasp!!! A one minute ten seconds scorcher of an instrumental so I'll be brief..... In 1978 Bobby Gillespie was a schoolfriend of Creation Records founder Alan McGee with whom he joined punk band the Drains, which also featured Andrew Innes on guitar. After leaving the Drains Gillespie teamed up with another schoolfriend, Jim Beattie, to form Primal Scream (Mk1) and began gigging in 1982, whilst McGee and Innes moved to London. After an unsuccessful one sided single release for McGee's first venture (Essential Records), Gillespie signed on for the Jesus and Mary Chain drum-stool whilst still gigging with Primal Scream (Mk2) until 1984 when, with the critical acclaim for the first JAMC single ('All Fall Down' on McGee's Creation label) the band gave Gillespie an ultimatum... full time with the notoriously 'challenging' JAMC or resign! Gillespie walked, amended the Scream line up again (Mk3) and recorded the 'Crystal Crescent' 12"er. It's from that single that this cracking instrumental is extracted..... Of course, since then there have been many more 'Mark...' Primal Screams, many changes in direction, leather trousers, producers and, errrr, drugs but Gillespie and Innes are still the backbone to the band and they continue to delight and exacerbate in equal amounts. One final quickie..... this single was responsible for the names of two bands, Jim Beattie's Spirea X and Maryland indie rockers Velocity Girl. Not a lot of people know that!!!
And back two decades for....
The Troggs. 'Lost Girl'. Recorded January 1966. Released February 1966. CBS Records. This from 'The Vintage Years', US import. Sire Records.
'Lost Girl'? More like lost classic really!!! It's all there, risqué lyrics, pounding drums and, as a bonus, two fiery guitar solo's by Chris Britton which were missing from many of their other singles. Rumour has it that this was Reg Presley's favourite single, so much so that they simply re-wrote it as 'From Home', the b-side to 'Wild Thing'. Formed in 1964 in Andover, they were signed to Larry Page's label, Page One Records, in late 1965 and quickly went in to the studio for this fine single. Strangely, Page leased the single to CBS for release and, perhaps that's why this missed out? I doubt whether CBS put too much effort and expense into a debut disc by an unknown band not signed to the label. Back in '64 drummer Ronnie Bond had recently purchased a new drum kit when the R&B band he was in decided to break up. Looking at the hire purchase agreement he realised that a new band was needed... and pronto! Former bricklayer Presley (christened Reginald Maurice Ball until Page said he needed a more distinctive name) was signed on initially as the bassist, Chris Brittan followed and then Pete Stables was installed on bass, moving Reg to vocal duties. Seeking a name for their 'primeval' brand of rhythm and blues they saw an article in a local paper about teenagers living in local caves who were being branded as 'Troglodytes' and, realising the publicity angle, initially named themselves after the youngsters before quickly shortening the unwieldy name to The Troggs. Well, that's one story anyway!!! Larry Page had signed The Ravens in 1964, renamed them the Kinks and, after playing the band 'Louie Louie', challenged them to come up with something better..... they did with 'You really got me'. Shortly after, he received a call from someone saying they knew a group who played 'You really got me' even better than the Kinks! A tape was forwarded and Page, unimpressed said," come and see me in a year ". Exactly one year to the day later, The Troggs contacted Page again and this time he signed them up. Reg Presley later said that 'Lost Girl' was played on Radio Luxemburg once... and that was at three am!!! Well, that's two other stories from the Trogg Tales. Believe them if you will!!! Despite their 'one trick' approach the band achieved nine top fifty hits in the UK, including two great number 2's, 'Wild Thing' and 'I can't control myself', plus the evergreen number 1 'With a girl like you'. There were other single's gems and you're attention is drawn to 1966's 'With a girl….' b-side 'I want you', 1967's atmospheric 'Night of the long grass' and 1968's lost b-side 'Maybe the madman'..... great stuff. Many bands have covered the Troggs material including the MC5, REM, Spiritualized, Retch, Retch, Retch and, most famously, Jimi Hendrix of course.
Back across the pond now...….
Steppenwolf. 'I'm goin' upstairs'. Recorded 14th May 1967. Released July 1969. Dunhill Records. Taken from 'Early Steppenwolf'
Great googa mooga…. this is how to play the blues!!! How come I didn't include this on my 'Can blue men sing the whites' article I hear you ask? Well... overlooked probably. Sorry! This John Lee Hooker song starts off as a pretty good, Canned Heat style boogie until, around the 3 minute mark when it begins to heat up (oops sorry!) into a fiery guitar work out. Late 1966 saw three Canucks cross the border and head to where it was all happening.... Los Angeles. The three had all been members of Oshawa, Ontario band Jack London and the Sparrows, formed in 1964 with John Kay joining a year later. Despite local success the band broke up a couple of years later and Kay, Goldie McJohn and Jerry Edmonton all decided to relocate to LA. There they were joined by Michael Monarch and Rushton Moreve on lead guitar and bass. Befriending composer, arranger and record producer Gabriel Mekler, they were advised to change their name and he suggested Steppenwolf, the title of a cult book published in 1927 by Hermann Hesse. The book speaks of "a man who believes himself to be of two natures: one high, the spiritual nature of man; the other is low and animalistic, a "wolf of the steppes". This man is entangled in an irresolvable struggle, never content with either nature because he cannot see beyond this self-made concept." Phew!... heavy stuff...… and so were Steppenwolf. At the time of this recording at Marty Balin's tiny Matrix Club the band were only capable of drawing a few hundred of the curious and committed, but, within twelve months they were headlining at the Fillmore East (supported by the Children of God who would soon be joined by ex-Fleetwood Mac-er Jeremy Spencer) and appearing at the huge Baltimore Civic Centre with Iron Butterfly. Following two unsuccessful singles, late 1967 saw the band in the studio with Mekler recording their self titled debut album which included a song (if not three) with which the band would always be associated, 'Magic Carpet Ride', 'The Pusher' and, of course, 'Born To Be Wild'. This latter song, in musical terms, introduced and defined 'heavy metal (thunder') at a time when bands were vying for the 'loudest band in the world' title (step forward Vanilla Fudge!!). Personally (and as usual), I find The Sparrows/early Steppenwolf more to my taste... I love a band still feeling it's way into the niche they may, or may not inhabit when popularity comes a knocking. Having said that, all three tracks mentioned above are classics of their time, especially 'Born to be wild', if only for its use in the opening credits (not the opening scene... that's 'The Pusher') of 'Easy Rider'. The band became million sellers and top billers for several years but, possibly because of Kay's nature, the band were always losing members (sometimes for appearing nude except for a pair of bunny ears, sometimes because of a fear that LA was going to slip into the sea following an earthquake!) and it was no surprise when the first break-up occurred, rather appositely, on St Valentines Day 1972.
Sly and the Family Stone. 'I ain't got nobody'. Recorded late 1966. Released early 1967. Loadstone label. From 'Sly Stone: Recorded in San Francisco 1964-67' album.
Perhaps yet another bootleg (from Sculpture Records), but who cares? What a talent.... what a waste!!!! A child prodigy, from a very talented musical family, Sly's introduction to live music came aged nine when he and three siblings formed the gospel group The Stewart Four and recorded their first single ('On the battlefield of the Lord'/'Walking in Jesus' name') in 1952. Further groups followed, including his high school doo-wop outfit The Viscaynes who released a few local singles, and there were several solo singles too, credited to Danny Stewart. In 1964 Sly moved from Dallas to San Mateo, Calif and became a DJ at local r&b station KSOL where, contrary to station regulations, he included such groups as The Beatles and the Rolling Stones in his playlist. During this same period he was moonlighting as a producer at the burgeoning Autumn label where he produced Bobby Freeman's hit single 'C'mon and swim' as well as now collectable tracks by The Beau Brummels, The Mojo Men, the Grateful Dead, The Great Society and several of his own (again unsuccessful) singles. After forming the short lived Sly and the Stoners in 1966 he combined some of his band with brother Freddie's equally unsuccessful, but also equally funky, Freddie and the Stone Souls which, with the inclusion of two sisters, became, initially, Sly Brothers and Sisters then the familiar Sly and the Family Stone. Signed to Loadstone, the band released several singles, with 'I ain't got nobody/'I can't turn you loose' the initial offering. It's a superb signpost to the sound that the band achieved on their initial late 1967 Epic release 'A Whole New Thing' album which drew praise from all sides, including bluesman Mose Allison. Here though, the sound is less dense, jazzier with a dominant organ lead. Vocals are well mixed up and there are some good 'whoo-whoo's' in the background vocals too. Returning to my opening remarks... "What a talent..... What a waste"!!!!
The Spiders. 'Don't blow your mind'. Recorded and released Early 1966. Santa Cruz label. This from 'Why don't you love me' EP. Sundazed label released 1998.
Summer 1964 saw Cortez High School pupil Vincent Damon Furnier write in the school year book under the 'Ambition' section 'A record million seller'. Well, his first couple of bands didn't achieve that but it was a lofty, and in the 60's, not unusual ambition. The Beatles and the Rolling Stones were, by that time, rampaging through the US charts and, in fact, April 4th saw the Beatles hold all the top five chart placings in the Billboard singles chart, a feat which is still unbeaten. For the high school talent show he decided to form a group, gathering together a motley crew of like minded dreamers. Unfortunately only one of their number (guitarist Glen Buxton) knew how to play an instrument!! Not put off by this minor problem, Buxton recorded all the parts to their song ('Please Please Me' with amended opening lyrics "Last night I ran four laps for my coach"!!) and, lining up behind the school instruments, they simply mimed along to the track and, lo and behold.... their band (The Earwigs..... no..... honest.... The Earwigs, complete with Beatles suits, boots and wigs) actually won! Star-struck, the band retired to a local pawn shop and, after acquiring the appropriate instruments and intensive tuition from Buxton, the Spiders were born, or should that be hatched? Graduation in 1966 saw the band (after the 'Why don't you love me' single on Phoenix's Mascot label) release this Stones-y pounder on the Santa Cruz label and be rewarded with a local chart topper. Broadening their horizon, the band began to venture into Los Angeles for gigs in 1967 and, at the same time changed their name to The Nazz. Under this guise they released the 'I wonder whose loving her now' single on Very Records (backed by a Furnier composition 'Lay down and die, goodbye' in late 1967 which he re-recorded a few years later). However, before then, Furnier became aware of another band called The Nazz, who charted in 1968 with 'Open my eyes' (featuring Todd Rundgren) and, rather than become involved in a dispute over their name, Furnier re-named the band. After realising the band could use a gimmick or two, he decided to name them after a fictitious cross dressing woman killer (a' la Bette Davis in 'Whatever happened to baby Jane'), and the name he chose was the innocuous sounding Alice Cooper!! Of course, it was under this unlikely name that he realised the ambition he had prophesised back in 1964.
Jimmy Page. 'She just satisfies'. Recorded late 1964. Released February 26th 1965. Fontana single. This from 1998 re-issue.
Musical maestro or musical magpie? There's absolutely no denying Page's mastery of the guitar, an art he brought to records by the Kinks, Who, Them, The Nashville Teens, Marianne Faithfull, Dave Berry, Brenda Lee and Petula Clark to name but a few! At one time Page was playing on three sessions a day, five days a week whilst his first session was lead guitar on the Jet Harris/Tony Meehan number one 'Diamonds'. He had first been spotted by John Gibb of Brian Howard and the Silhouettes and soon after he was signed to Decca by Mike Leander. By this time he had sat in with the Cyril Davies All Stars, Alexis Korner's Blues Incorporated and briefly been a member of Carter-Lewis and the Southerner's and Mickey Finn and the Blue Men. Alongside 'Big' Jim Sullivan (remember the Tom Jones Show?) Page became the 'go to' guitarist for many producers, especially Shel Talmy and, in 1965, he was signed to Andrew Oldhams Immediate label where he became the main A & R person, responsible for recordings by (current girlfriend) Jackie De Shannon, Nico, John Mayall, Chris Farlowe and others. It was around this time that he decided to record this debut (and only) single, composed with Barry Mason who was the supplier of such goodies as 'Love grows (where my Rosemary goes)', 'The last waltz', 'Here it comes again' and 'Delilah'! A great double sider, 'She just satisfies' is built on the Kinks album track 'Revenge' (possibly Pages first (ahem) 'borrow' of a riff ) and, other than an un-named drummer (possibly Bobby Graham), Page supplies all the instruments and, uniquely, the vocals too. Page is on record as saying the single was done 'just for a bit of a laugh' and, if so, it's a pity he didn't have a few more laughs. The b-side is another stormer, a blues instrumental, again with Page playing all the instruments (except drums again), this time including some great organ and mouth organ with co-composer Jackie De Shannon providing back up vocals, such as they are. In late 1964, Page had been asked to replace Eric Clapton in the Yardbirds but, as they were great friends, Page declined the offer. In February 1965 Clapton left the Yardbirds and, again, Page was first choice and, again, he declined, reluctant to give up his lucrative session work. He recommended Jeff Beck but, in May 1966, Paul Samwell Smith left the Yardbirds and Page was offered the bass position which he held until Chris Dreja moved from rhythm guitar to bass, allowing the band, for a short time to become a double lead guitar line up. Just prior to joining (on the 16th May), Beck, Page, Keith Moon, John Paul Jones and Nicky Hopkins recorded 'Becks Bolero' and discussed forming a super group featuring Page, Beck, Moon and John Entwistle. As they had no vocalist in mind, the group (to be named Lead Zeppelin at Moon's suggestion) never went any further but, on a US tour in August, Beck was fired from the band. Despite their past chart history, the Yardbirds were on a downward commercial spiral and, after recording a couple of singles and an album (initially a US release only) the band split in August 1968. This allowed Page to form his 'supergroup' (now Led Zeppelin of course) and begin the rapid climb to become the biggest band in the world during the 70's as well as allowing Page to begin 'borrowing' songs from other artists!!!