Monday, October 31, 2011

96 tears

Question Mark and the Mysterians' garage rock classic prefigured punk when it topped the charts in 1966. Bandleader Rudy Martinez describes the genesis of the song: "Naturally, it has a long history. It was written even before I was in the group. I had these sounds coming into my head and I wanted to learn how to play the piano. So, I went to this old man, around fifty years old, and I sang him this tune, because I wanted to learn how to do this music. That's when I first sang "96 Tears". Years went by and we formed a group in 1962. We started jamming and were together for four years. The drummer went into the service and then the guitar player went into the service. So, I had to find a drummer and a bass player right away to fill in, and capture the sound we had, this tightness we had in four years. They couldn't do it. It sounded terrible. I was strictly into originality. No harmonies like The Beatles. I didn't want to have that kind of sound. Well, the thing is, Little Frank (Lugo) came up with the riff. I was told it was going to be a million seller. So, everything was already planned out. It just had to be brought back to the surface again. "

'96 Tears' was recorded in Bay City, Michigan in a converted living room and released in a limited pressing of five hundred copies on their manager's Pa-Go-Go Record label. It was picked up for national release by Cameo Records. It went to number one in the US and Canada. The lineup of the band at the time was Rudy Martinez on lead vocal, his brother Frank on keyboards, Bobby Balderrama on lead guitar, Frank Lugo on bass, and Robert Martinez on drums. They got their name from a Japanese science fiction movie. Martinez says, "It was always The Mysterians. Question Mark was my name. We played around the Flint, Saginaw, Bay City area. Never Detroit. We were called The Mysterians, X, Y, Z and I was Question Mark. I thought the three letters were mysterious letters of the alphabet and my thing was 'why can't those letters start the alphabet? Is there a reason why ABC has to be there and not XYZ?' When you look at it that way, everything in life pertains that way too. The DJ at one radio station kept saying Question Mark and The Mysterians. People thought it was two groups... Question Mark and the other group was The Mysterians. Nobody told people there's only one band. So, before '96 Tears', we had to go on the radio and say 'when you hear Question Mark and The Mysterians, it's gonna be one group, not two groups.' So, that's how it got from The Mysterians to Question Mark and The Mysterians. "

Too many teardrops for one heart to be cryin'
Too many teardrops for one heart to carry on
You're way on top now
Since you left me
You're always laughin'
Way down at me
But watch out now
I'm gonna get there
We'll be together
For just a little while
And then I'm gonna put you
Way down here
And you'll start cryin'
Ninety-six tears

And when the sun comes up
I'll be on top
You'll be way down there
Lookin' up
And I might wave
Come up here
But I don't see you
Wavin' now
I'm way down here
Wonderin' how
I'm gonna get you
But I know now
I'll just cry, cry, I'll just cry

Too many teardrops for one heart to be cryin'
Too many teardrops for one heart
To carry on
You're gonna cry ninety-six tears
You're gonna cry ninety-six tears
You're gonna cry cry, cry, cry, now
You're gonna cry cry, cry, cry
Ninety-six tears c'mon and lemme hear you cry, now
Ninety-six tears (whoo!) I wanna hear you cry
Night and day, yeah, all night long
Uh-ninety-six tears cry cry cry
C'mon baby, let me hear you cry now, all night long
Uh-ninety-six tears! Yeah! C'mon now
Uh-ninety-six tears!

Sunday, October 30, 2011


These meddling kids found themselves through the mysterious machinations and expansive experimental excursions of this meditative classic. Recorded over several months while Pink Floyd was on tour at several studios around London, including Associated Independent Recording, Morgan Sound, and Abbey Road; 'Meddle' coalesced into the most solid Pink Floyd album since the departure of Syd Barrett. The early experimental "Nothings" became "Son of Nothings" and then "Return of the Son of Nothings"; which was the working title of the new album. They played around in the studio with household items, sound effects, and extended jams during long overnight sessions to produce a layered brilliance. In the US, the album only reached seventy; but it was a top ten hit in Europe, peaking at number three in the UK.

'One of These Days' builds slowly around Roger Waters' ostinato bass motif into the most rocking moment of the album. Nick Mason did the voice as a falsetto, which was recorded at double speed, then slowed down. The single never charted.

'Fearless' was the b-side of the single. It includes field recordings of the Liverpool F.C. Kop choir singing 'You'll Never Walk Alone'.

"Fearlessly the idiot faced the crowd
Merciless the magistrate turns 'round
And who's the fool who wears the crown?
Go down,
In your own way
And every day is the right day
And as you rise above the fear-lines in his brow
You look down, hearing the sound of the faces in the crowd."

'A Pillow of Winds' is intimate, dreamy, and delicate.

"The cloud of eiderdown draws around me
softening the sound
sleepy time when I lie with my love by my side
and she's breathing low, and the candle dies"

The twenty-three minute opus of 'Echoes' takes up the entire second side of the album. Richard Wright produced a submarine ping sound with an effect on his piano that they were not able to duplicate; so they built the track around the demo using the multi-track capabilities of AIR studios. David Gilmour's guitar sound came about by accidentally plugged his instrument into his wah-wah pedal back to front.

"Overhead the albatross
Hangs motionless upon the air
And deep beneath the rolling waves
In labyrinths of coral caves
An echo of a distant time
Comes willowing across the sand
And everything is green and submarine. "

full album:

Side one
1. "One of These Days"   Waters, Gilmour, Wright, Mason 5:57
2. "A Pillow of Winds"   Gilmour, Waters    vocals: Gilmour 5:10
3. "Fearless" (including "You'll Never Walk Alone") Gilmour, Waters (including Rodgers, Hammerstein II)   vocals:  Gilmour 6:08
4. "San Tropez"   Waters   vocals:  Waters 3:43
5. "Seamus"   Gilmour, Wright, Waters, Mason   vocals:  Gilmour 2:16

Side two
1. "Echoes"   Wright, Gilmour, Waters, Mason   vocals:  Wright, Gilmour 23:32

Saturday, October 29, 2011

duane allman

Howard Duane Allman
(November 20, 1946 – October 29, 1971)

'Skydog' started playing at the age of fourteen and went on to be one of the most celebrated guitarists in rock history. Inspired by the music of B.B. King, he spent most of his youth learning his craft. Along with his brother Gregg, he formed bands like Allman Joys and Hour Glass. He became a popular session man at FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, playing with artists like Clarence Carter,King Curtis, Aretha Franklin, Laura Nyro, Wilson Pickett, Otis Rush, Percy Sledge, Johnny Jenkins,Boz Scaggs, Delaney & Bonnie and Herbie Mann. He felt restricted by what he considered undemanding work, and left to form a new band with drummer Jaimoe Johanson, bassist Berry Oakley, guitarist Dickey Betts, drummer Butch Trucks, and his brother Gregg on organ and vocals. The Allman Brothers became a critical and commercial success with their original blend of Southern Rock, renowned for their live performances like 'At Filmore East'. Duane also played a significant role in the recording of Eric Clapton's 'Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs'. Forty years ago, as his star was rising, he died from his injuries after his Harley Davidson motorcycle crashed into a flatbed truck in Macon, Georgia.

Duane once said:    "I love being alive and I will be the best man I possibly can. I will take love wherever I find it and offer it to everyone who will take it. . . seek knowledge from those wiser and teach those who wish to learn from me."

The guitar duet with Dicky Betts, 'Little Martha' was one of his last recordings.

Friday, October 28, 2011

face to face

The golden age of the Kinks was ushered in with the sophisticated social commentary of this matured and assured concept album. For the first time, Ray Davies wrote all of the songs; most of which after a nervous breakdown. He took increasing solace in the the bittersweet dramas of the common folk: "I write songs about people, and I happen to feel that the suburbanite kind of person who's not much noticed is quite interesting." It was a tumultuous time for the band. During the eight months they spent recording 'Face to Face', Pete Quaife left the band after a car accident and was replaced by John Dalton; but Quaife returned to play on most of the album. Shel Talmy produced the album at Pye Studios in London. Executives had their doubts about the new musical direction; but after the massive success of 'Sunny Afternoon' during the summer, they couldn't deny the potential. The album peaked at number twelve; but only made it to one hundred and thirty six in the US.

'Rosie Won't You Please Come Home' was inspired by Ray's sister, who lived in Australia with an abusive husband.

"Rosy won’t you please come home
Mama don’t know where you’ve been
Rosy won’t you please come home
Your room’s clean and no one’s in it"

"Knockin’ on the back door,
Climbing through the window,
Hubby’s gone away,
And while the cat’s away
The mice are gonna play.
Oh, you low down dandy,dandy"

The scathing 'Session Man' features Nicky Hopkins tickling the ivories. There was an unnamed session player who contributed to the album.

"He reads the dots and plays each line,
And always finishes on time.
No overtime nor favors done.
He is a session man,
A chord progression,
A top musician.
He's not paid to think, just play."

"He don't need no sedatives To ease his troubled mind At work he is invariably Unpleasant and unkind
Why should he care If he is hated in his home? "

'Holiday in Waikiki' retains some of the studio effects that Ray wanted to use to link up all of the tracks on the album.

I won a competition in a little column in my local paper.
So I packed my bags and flew across the sea all on my local paper.
I sailed to Hawaii in the U.S.A.
I'm just an English boy who won a holiday in Waikiki.
I didn't realize it was commercialized when I unpacked my cases,
Because a genuine Hawaii ukulele cost me thirty guineas,
And even when I'm swimming I have to pay.

'Fancy' is a hypnotic raga.

"Fancy, if you believe in what I believe in,
Then we'll be the same, always.
Fancy, just look around thee
If you will fancy all the girls you see, always.
My love is like a ruby that no one can see,
Only my fancy, always.
No one can penetrate me,
They only see what's in their own fancy, always. "

face to face
full album:

All songs written and composed by Ray Davies, except where noted.

1. "Party Line" 0:00   (R.Davies - D.Davies)
2. "Rosie Won't You Please Come Home" 2:35 
3. "Dandy" 5:09 
4. "Too Much on My Mind" 7:22 
5. "Session Man" 9:50 
6. "Rainy Day in June" 12:04 
7. "A House in the Country" 15:15 
8. "Holiday in Waikiki" 18:19 
9. "Most Exclusive Residence for Sale" 21:12 
10. "Fancy" 24:01 
11. "Little Miss Queen of Darkness" 26:31 
12. "You're Lookin' Fine" 29:48 
13. "Sunny Afternoon" 32:35 
14. "I'll Remember" 36:12

Thursday, October 27, 2011


Twenty five years ago, XTC reached the zenith of their creative powers with this lush and pastoral pop masterpiece. They recorded the album with Todd Rundgren at his Utopia Sound Studios in Woodstock, NY. It was Rundgren who convinced the band to make it into a concept album with the songs cycling through seasonal change as a metaphor for the stages of life. Partridge describes his tense working relationship with the producer: "He was so bloody sarcastic, which is rare with Americans. He's got it down to an extremely cruel art. He'd ask how you were going to do the vocals and you would stand in front of the mic and do one run through to clear your throat and he'd say, 'That was crap. I'll come down and I'll record me singing it and you can have me in your headphones to sing along to.' I just thought it was so insulting....He did do great things musically. The arrangements were brilliant and I don't know how he came up with them... The bloke is ludicrously smart when it comes to certain things." Named after Percy Bysshe Shelley's poem 'To a Skylark', 'Skylarking' peaked at number seventy in the UK and number forty four in the US.

'The Meeting Place'

'Summer's Cauldron / Grass'

'Earn Enough For Us'

'Mermaid Smiled' was replaced by 'Dear God' on later pressings.

full album

All songs written and composed by Andy Partridge, except where noted.

Side one
1. "Summer's Cauldron"   3:19
2. "Grass"   Colin Moulding 3:05
3. "The Meeting Place"   Moulding 3:14
4. "That's Really Super, Supergirl"   3:21
5. "Ballet for a Rainy Day"   2:50
6. "1000 Umbrellas"   3:44
7. "Season Cycle"   3:21
Side two
1. "Earn Enough for Us"   2:54
2. "Big Day"   Moulding 3:32
3. "Another Satellite"   4:15
4. "Mermaid Smiled"   2:26
5. "The Man Who Sailed Around His Soul"   3:24
6. "Dying"   Moulding 2:31
7. "Sacrificial Bonfire"   Moulding 3:49

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

carolina shout

Ninety years ago, this player piano roll titan pioneered Harlem Stride with this jazz standard. James P. Johnson developed his style playing Classical and Ragtime in bars, parties, and vaudeville. As his reputation grew, he became a popular session man and produced many piano rolls in his name. For many, 'Carolina Shout' is the definitive stride piano piece. The style brings blue notes and swing rhythms into the classic sound of Ragtime. Typically, the right hand plays the melody while the left hand makes dramatic improvisational leaps around the keyboard. 'Carolina Shout' made Johnson the "Father of Stride" and is considered the first recorded jazz piano solo.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

true colors

Twenty five years ago, Cyndi Lauper had her last big hit with this torchsong for the downtrodden. Billy Steinberg had originally written 'True Colors' about his mother; but Tom Kelly saw the universal potential in the chorus and helped him rewrite the lyrics. Lauper contributed additional lyrics and did the arrangement with Peter Wood. Steinberg explains: "One of the things that one contends with as a songwriter is that when an artist records your song, unless you're producing it yourself or somehow involved in the production, you have very little input into how the song's being arranged and structured. Sometimes an artist will copy your demo exactly as you present it. That would be the case with 'Like a Virgin' or 'Alone' by Heart - the records copied the demos. In 'True Colors,' more than any other song, Cyndi Lauper came up with a very, very creative departure from our demo. The demo was sort of rooted in the Gospel ballad tradition of a song like 'Bridge Over Troubled Water', 'Let It Be' or 'Lean On Me,' that sort of thing with the piano. Cyndi completely dismantled that sort of traditional arrangement and came up with something that was breathtaking and stark. Tom and I were both elated when we heard her record of it because it was so much more adventurous than our demo, and to her credit, she produced it and did a beautiful job. That song, more than any other song I've written, has had tremendous life. I guess more than any other song that Tom and I wrote, that one seems to have the most universal appeal."

'True Colors' reached number one in the US and Canada, number three in Australia, and number twelve in the UK. It was her last chart topper. Two decades later, Lauper used the song to launch a True Colors Tour for the Human Rights Campaign to promote human rights and raise awareness about hate crimes in the US and beyond with acts like Debbie Harry, Erasure, The Dresden Dolls, the Indigo Girls, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, The B-52's, Regina Spektor, Tegan and Sara, Joan Armatrading, Sarah McLachlan, and Rufus Wainwright. Comedians Margaret Cho, Carson Kresley, Wanda Sykes, Kate Clinton, and Rosie O'Donnell, also took part.

You with the sad eyes
Don't be discouraged
Oh I realize
It's hard to take courage
In a world full of people
You can lose sight of it all
And the darkness inside you
Can make you fell so small

But I see your true colors
Shining through
I see your true colors
And that's why I love you
So don't be afraid to let them show
Your true colors
True colors
Are beautiful
Like a rainbow

Show me a smile then
Don't be unhappy, can't remember
When I last saw you laughing
If this world makes you crazy
And you've taken all you can bear
You call me up
Because you know I'll be there

And I see your true colors
Shining through
I see your true colors
And that's why I love you
So don't be afraid to let them show
Your true colors
True colors
Are beautiful
Like a rainbow

Monday, October 24, 2011

mellow yellow

Donovan quite rightly had a sudden craze with this easygoing psychedelic paean to Saffron, among other things. He says, "'Mellow Yellow' was a jazz groove that I learned, the feel of the groove, in Preservation Hall in New Orleans one month, early in my career, it must have been early ’66. And I came back to London and I just used to sing this thing in parties, and my producer Mickey Most said, 'ahh that’s it, that’s the next single.' I said, 'what, this?' He said, 'yeah.' And so it was. And to be mellow and to feel mellow was the cool groove of 'Mellow Yellow'. And the greatest accolade I got was from Dr. John, who said, 'Yeah man!'"

The Beatlesque sound was a nod to the Fab Four and their song 'Yellow Submarine', to which Donovan had contributed lyrics. Paul McCartney apparently was present during the sessions and can be heard among the shouts at the end of the song. There has been considerable speculation on the meaning of the lyrics. One urban legend is that you can get high from smoking banana peels. Another suggestion is that the titular phrase comes from James Joyce's 'Ulysses'. Some think the song is about liver disease. Donovan explains what the song is about: "Quite a few things. Being mellow, laid-back, chilled out. 'They call me Mellow Yellow, I'm the guy who can calm you down.' Lennon and I used to look in the back of newspapers and pull out funny things and they'd end up in songs. So it's about being cool, laid-back, and also the electrical bananas that were appearing on the scene - which were ladies vibrators." The line "mad about fourteen" refers to fourteen year old girls, who comprised the bulk of his fans. The song reached number eight in the UK and number two in the US.

I'm just mad about Saffron,
A-Saffron's mad about me.
I'm a-just mad about Saffron,
She's just mad about me.
They call me mellow yellow.
They call me mellow yellow.
They call me mellow yellow.

I'm just mad about Fourteen,
A-Fourteen's mad about me.
I'm a-just a-mad about a-Fourteen,
She's just mad about me.
They call me mellow yellow.
They call me mellow yellow.
They call me mellow yellow.

Born high forever to fly,
Wind-a velocity nil.
Born high forever to fly,
If you want your cup I will fill.
They call me mellow yellow.
They call me mellow yellow.
They call me mellow yellow.
He's so mellow, mellow fellow.

Electrical banana
Is gonna be a sudden craze.
Electrical banana
Is bound to be the very next phase.
They call it mellow yellow.
They call me mellow yellow.
They call me mellow yellow.

You, ah, Saffron, yeah,
I'm just mad about her.
I'm a-just a-mad about a-Saffron,
She's just mad about me.
They call me mellow yellow.
They call me mellow yellow.
They call me mellow yellow.

Oh so mellow, oh so mellow, oh so mellow.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

if you leave me now

Chicago had their biggest hit with this weepy romantic ballad. 'If You Leave Me Now' was written by bass player Peter Cetera, who also sang lead. As the band was recording their tenth album, producer Jim Guercio wanted to include the bassist's new song, though the rest of the band weren't sure that it fit with the rest of the material with its acoustic guitar solo and use of strings. Guercio insisted on recording and including the song, and released it as a single. It became the band's first number one hit on the US pop chart, and topped the Australian and UK charts as well. While the song was their biggest hit worldwide, the album 'Chicago X' only made it to number three, breaking their streak of five chart topping albums in a row. 'If You Leave Me Now' also won Grammy Awards for Best Arrangement Accompanying Vocalist and Best Pop Vocal Performance by a Duo, Group or Chorus.

If you leave me now
You'll take away the biggest part of me
Ooo oh, no, baby please don't go

And if you leave me now
You'll take away the very heart of me
Ooo oh, no, baby please don't go.
Ooo, oh, girl, I just want you to stay

A love like ours is love that's hard to find
How could we let it slip away?
We've come too far to leave it all behind
How could we end it all this way?
When tomorrow comes and we both regret
The things we said today

Ooh girl, just got to have you by my side
Ooo oh, no, baby please don't go
Ooh my my, I just got to have your love in hand