Gary Meets The Beatles ….only Somewhere Else

Being eight years old in the Toronto suburbs of 1963, I was at the perfect age – and in the perfect place – to, yes, Meet the Beatles. Because by the time “those four youngsters from Liverpool” hit the Ed Sullivan Show on 9 February 64, my friends and I had already spent the past six months familiarizing ourselves with John, Paul, George and Ringo’s initial A-sides via Ontario’s mighty 1050 CHUM-AM Radio.

In other words then, the British Beat had no reason to invade Canada. It was invited.

Unlike with our big neighbors to the immediate south you see, each of the Beatles’ earliest discs garnered automatic release on Capitol Records of Canada, beginning right at the beginning with “Love Me Do” in February of ’63 (the version with Ringo on drums, by the way!), and the Canadian Beatle Discography boasts many other rare slices of vintage vinyl totally unique to the genre, and as a result extremely collectable.

For example, the Canadian Beatlemania! album not only sported an identical cover and track line-up, but was released the very same week With the Beatles was in the UK (making it the first Beatle album released anywhere within North America), and its twelve-inch Capitol Canada follow-up, the Twist and Shout album – # 1 on the Canadian charts for ten weeks in early ’64 – was in fact the very first “big record” I ever had the pleasure to have owned.

And what a remarkable record it was: Fourteen action-packed tracks featuring all four – “count ‘em”! – of the band’s first UK 45 top-sides, plus a generous helping of Cavern-baked covers from their homeland debut album Please Please Me. Being too young then to know, and still too young to care if nary a Beatle wrote each and every note or lyric herein, Carole King’s “Chains” stacked so easily around Len/Mac’s similarly George Harri-sung “Do You Want To Know A Secret,” Bacharach and David’s “Baby, It’s You” seamlessly followed John and Paul’s “P.S. I Love You” on T & S Side 2, and the magnificent Arthur Alexander’s “Anna (Go to Him),” which kicked off this entire collection, continues to this day to hold more than its own against any Beatle composition you or even I could mention.

And while Lennon’s wholly larynx-bursting “Twist and Shout” completed the first Beatle album in Great Britain, the ever-inventive Canadian Capitol chose to close its namesake long-player with none other than – wait for it – “She Loves You.” Take that, Sir George Martin! (and tell Dave Dexter, Jr. the news.)

Meanwhile in the seven-inch division, “Please Please Me” actually hit the CFGP Top Forty in Grande Prairie, Alberta in April of ’63, while two of Capitol Canada’s most unique couplings, “All My Loving”/”This Boy” and “Roll Over Beethoven”/”Please Mister Postman,” sold sufficient (smuggled) copies to reach even the American Hot One Hundred a year later. Also, the U.S. Tollie label “Twist and Shout”/”There’s a Place” 45, which soared to Billboard # 2 in April of 1964, was an identically-formed Canadian Capitol Top Ten much, much earlier.

Plus, may I just add that every single one of the above-mentioned original deep-grooved, meticulously mastered Canadian (mono!) pressings put their U.S. counterparts – not to mention even the latest CD incarnations, truth to tell – to total, unequivocal sonic shame. Really!

The moral of this absolutely Fab story then? Good music IS good music, and shall forever remain so, regardless of the size, format, packaging, advertising budget or even country-of-origin of the item in hand.

And of course, any discussion of Lost Grooves that doesn’t contain multiple uses of the word “Beatle” is a discussion I just must immediately bow out from.

P.S., and in closing: Is it only me, or is the Beatles Rock Band animation a tad cheesier than even that of the old Beatles cartoon series?

Gary’s Buddy

TEN REASONS WHY
BUDDY HOLLY
STILL MATTERS

1. THE CHIRPING CRICKETS
Buddy Holly, alongside rhythm guitarist Niki Sullivan, bassist Joe B. Mauldin, and drummist-extraordinaire Jerry Allison, formed the immaculately suited, fully self-contained singing/songwriting template upon which some of the greatest pop-rock bands since, from those Beatles most obviously on down, were inextricably linked at the hip.

2. BUDDY’S BUDDY
When no less than that up-coming King of Western Bop Elvis Presley first blew into Lubbock, Texas on tour in 1955, homeboy Buddy Holly was not only right there in the front row cheering him on, but afterwards appointed himself the Hillbilly Cat’s exclusive host, guide and confidant for the ensuing sixteen hours. Duly inspired, Buddy immediately revamped his burgeoning Crickets from an alt.-bluegrass combo into Lubbock’s very own Elvis, Scotty and Bill …so successfully so, in fact, that several months later, when Elvis triumphantly returned to town, Buddy Holly had graduated from mere tour guide status to that of official on-stage opening act.

3. LEARNING THE GAME
After somehow failing to impress the usually infallible Owen Bradley with “That’ll Be The Day” at a 1956 demo session (“the worst song I ever heard” was his verdict), Buddy determinedly drove one thousand miles from Nashville to the Clovis, New Mexico studios of Norman Petty, where over the next eighteen months they turned a simple two-track facility into an audio workshop/lab from which came not only the look and attitude, but the very sounds of the 1960’s to come. Despite his so obviously prescient George Martin ways though, Petty must be docked serious points for screwing Buddy royally over songwriting credits, royalties, and even concert proceeds until the Holly estate could eventually be forever wrenched from his Machiavellian claws.

4. LISTEN TO ME
It may have lasted only twenty-five days, but when Buddy and his Crickets toured the United Kingdom in the spring of 1958, those watching closely and taking serious notes for future use were, amongst thousands of others, John Lennon and Paul McCartney (whose first-ever recording was a near note-perfect “That’ll Be The Day” shortly afterwards), Mick Jagger and Keith Richards (the former already proud owner of the Chirping Crickets album), Graham Nash and Allan Clarke (who soon grew their two-man Everlys act into the full, named-in-guess-who’s-honor Hollies), and pioneering British record producer Joe Meek …who subsequently became so obsessed over Holly that he not only killed his landlady, but himself on the eighth anniversary of Buddy’s own tragic demise.

5. NOT FADE AWAY
It did indeed take a Buddy Holly composition to first put The Rolling Stones securely into the American hit parade with, at the very height of Beatlemania, Lennon/McCartney’s “I Wanna Be Your Man” unceremoniously relegated to the single’s B-side! And speaking of whom…

6. WORDS OF LOVE
Buddy wrote the best song on the Beatles VI album; and, come to think of it, maybe even on Beatles For Sale.

7. FOOL’S PARADISE
Buddy’s wealth of songs have proven so adaptable, durable and downright sturdy as to withstand covers from the likes of Rush (who also debuted on seven-inch vinyl with “Not Fade Away” I kid you not), the Grateful Dead, The Knack and even Linda Ronstadt. Not to mention “It’s So Easy“ (-Off oven cleaner) and “Oh Boy” becoming “Oh, Buick!” television jingles at the behest of Holly’s supposedly sympathetic post-Petty publishing magnate Sir Paul McC. Quite highly recommended nevertheless is the 1977 McCartney-produced Holly Days, um, tribute album by then-Wing Denny Laine.

8. MAYBE BABY
Years before he was to become the serial tragic clown of television reality programming, that perennially short-pant-legged dust storm known as Gary Busey deservedly nabbed an Oscar nomination for his title role in 1978’s Buddy Holly Story. Now while its script may have taken inexcusable Hollywood shortcuts in recounting our hero’s life and music, at least Gary, alongside co-stars Don Stroud and Charles Martin Smith, became pretty damn garage-worthy Crickets all over the film’s soundtrack, performing as close to live whenever possible before the unforgiving cameras.

9. CRYING, WAITING, HOPING
Weeks before his last-ever tour, a newly married Holly sang several song sketches into a tape recorder in his Greenwich Village apartment for what turned out to be posterity. Having already hinted at still non-categorizable sounds-to-come with tracks like “Everyday” and “Well… All Right,” Buddy’s last recordings leap even further into the unknown with covers of Ray Charles (!), Bing Crosby (!!), plus Holly’s own final compositions. Exquisite guitar-and-voice-only recordings, they are far more than simply “unplugged.” They are sublime, heartbreaking, and totally unique. As with most things Holly.

10. STANDING IN THE DOORWAY
"And I just want to say that when I was sixteen or seventeen years old, I went to see Buddy Holly play at Duluth National Guard Armory and I was three feet away from him. And he looked at me. And I just have some sort of feeling that he was — I don't know how or why — but I know he was with us all the time we were making this record in some kind of way."
— Bob Dylan, 1998 Grammy Awards acceptance speech for Album of the Year Time Out Of Mind.

Be My Mighty Baby

Yes, me again! Back so soon with real groovy tunes so grabs ya a spoon and start digging in!

Fans of ’60’s British garage pop and R&B have no doubt heard of the great band The Action (and if you haven’t, check them out now!!!) so those fans will no doubt be thrilled when they find out The Action morphed and became a totally different band at one point.

Below is a review of Sunbeam’s recent reissue of one of the best of The Action’s post-Action albums.

Mighty Baby – A Jug Of Love
Sunbeam Records

Thanks to the great, great Sunbeam label we can again enjoy the thrilling psychedelic sounds of one of the most overlooked psychedelic bands ever to arise out of England. I, for one, have been waiting for this album to be reissued for a mighty (baby) long time! This reissue of this underrated band’s second album from 1972 is like manna from the heavens for those searching for long-lost psyche.

For those looking for a little more backstory, Mighty Baby rose from the ashes of another great overlooked British band, The Action. For a while The Action had been tagged as the band most ready to take over from The Beatles, and unlikely as it seems today, if you listen to The Action’s early recordings you will wonder why they didn’t do just that.

No less than Fab Four producer George Martin thought so as well, as he signed them to their recording contract. Come to think of it, he signed wimp-rock band America too so maybe ol’ Georgy’s taste is suspect. But that’s another story. To Martin’s credit, The Action really did kick some major ass. Mixing equal parts of the Beatles’ (and the other Merseybeat bands) melodic savvy with the pure rock power of the Who and Kinks, The Action were a powerhouse band that nonetheless didn’t quite get the breaks necessary to really hit it big.

After a couple of personnel, managerial, label, and even name changes, the remnants of The Action signed with the same management team as Pink Floyd and T-Rex and started experimenting in the studio. Unlike most hard R&B bands who attempted to keep up with the times by embracing the mind-bending sounds of psychedelic rock, the sound seemed natural and not forced and the current line-up seemed adept at playing the new, groundbreaking sub-genre of rock music.

Christened Mighty Baby by the band’s new label in an attempt at a new start, the former Action came up with one of the stronger psychedelic albums of the period, an album that stands up with the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper and the Pretty Things’ S.F. Sorrow as psychedelic rock blueprints.

Sadly, it went mostly unheard.

Dropped from their label, the band managed to hook up with Blue Horizon Records for this reissue, their second and final album. Though as good as their first record, at the time it still unfortunately succumbed to the same fate: little airplay and hardly any sales. The times had changed and most succesful bands were either playing soft rock like Crosby, Stills and Nash or a simpler form of boogie/blues-based hard rock like Led Zeppelin which would later sadly evolve into the ear-wrecking sounds of heavy metal. For a band more interested in melody, extended fluid guitar lines and thriling vocal harmonies, the time had definitely passed. But that doesn’t mean this album isn’t bliss personified.

A psychedelic fan’s dream with exquisite melodic playing and guitar work to make your heart soar to the heavens, this album makes me wish we could return to the ’60’s for just a little while. Energetic with none of the excessive noodling marring most psyche albums, it’s a perfect meld of garage and psyche that will stay on your turntable for weeks.

Fans of psyche will wet their pants over this one. Pick it up, turn on and tune out, babies. Get some of whatever stuff you smoke when your parents aren’t around and start a-hootin’ because this shit is THE shit. One of the most excellent psyche albums around from one of the most underrated bands ever. Get you some Action and some Mighty Baby as soon as you can. You will not be sorry, and I will guarantee it.

Cruising with Uncle Frank’s Words

    “The recording of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band spanned 129 days; perhaps the most creative 129 days in the history of rock music.”
(author and “Beatle Brain of Britain” Mark Lewisohn)  

 

Whilst those “Fugs of the West Coast,” The Mothers of Invention, were spending month upon month held over in New York City’s Garrick Theatre performing their 1967 Pigs and Repugnant Revue, Frank Zappa was spending his every waking hour off stage holed up in the city’s pioneering 12-track (!!) Apostolic recording studio over on East 10th.  The ultra-productive time spent there, which resulted in not only the epic We’re Only In It For The Money but several other stellar FZ / MOI LP’s (not to mention reams of archival material which continues to dribble out posthumously via the Zappa Family Trust), constitutes what I firmly believe to be THE most fitfully fruitful time ever spent by man or beast committing rock ‘n’ roll to magnetic tape …and yes, that includes those pious Pepper sessions as well.

Right alongside Apostolic’s utterly brilliant recording engineer Richard “Dick Dynamite” Kunc and his latest audio toys (variable speed oscillators, the grand new “Apostolic Vlorch Injector,” plus assorted policemen and breakfast rolls), Zappa and band stitched together, for starters, "most of the music from the Mothers’ movie of the same name which we haven’t got enough money to finish yet" as well as the first, and I’m sure you must agree, BEST of all those late-Sixties so-called R ‘n’ R Revival elpees Cruising With Ruben and the Jets.

Now, while the Uncle Meat soundtrack still sounds as magnificently minced and phonically fully-flavored today as it did upon its ’69 release, the digitized Ruben most unfortunately suffers from a typically fool-headed remix and re-record which obliterates the Mother/Jets’ original greasy, bottom-heavy finger-snatting and replaces them all with synthesized bass sloops and Eighties-anemic drums-that-go-“pooh” (instead of poot), I’m so sorry to report.  “When I sat down and listened to the CD I got sick in the pit of my stomach, man,” so go the wizened words of Mother woodwinder Bunk Gardner (as reported in our ant bee Billy James’ indispensable Necessity Is… The Early Years of Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention book).  “The music was from one era and you could tell the rhythm section was from the 1980s; it didn’t make sense at all to me.  And the thing that blew my mind was, didn’t Frank hear that?”

Apparently not.  Still, for those who naturally prefer jelly roll gum drops and Chevy ‘39’s over tangerine trees and newspaper taxis…..