2 Shades of Grey

Songs from the soundtrack of your life


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Beat music pt 2

As I mentioned last year one of my favourite magazines was Beat monthly which had morphed into Beat Instrumental monthly by issue 18 in a slightly larger format and a price increase up to 2/- old money (i.e. 10p). This September 1965 issue was the last one I have but it went on until the early 1970s at least and copies can be found on the internet from £0+ a copy!

The Animals were the featured group on the front page shown rehearsing for a TV show. It was in full colour. There was an editorial comment inside about how much better everyone would come across if we had colour TV!

(NB BBC 2 broadcast its first colour pictures from Wimbledon in 1967. By mid 1968, nearly every BBC 2 programme was in colour. Six months later, colour came to BBC 1. By 1969, BBC 1 and ITV were regularly broadcasting in colour).

The inside front cover was a full-size b&w photograph of Ray Davies playing a Framus 12-string guitar.

The Player of the Month was Jeff Beck. This was a few months after he replaced Eric Clapton in The Yardbirds.

He said he was playing a Fender Telecaster which cost about £125 “not expensive” he said (well about three months wages for the average guy in the street).

A surprise for me was seeing Bill Wyman’s column giving advice on bass guitars and playing them. He was still in the Rolling Stones so must have had some spare time.

There was a full-page review of a Moody Blues gig. This was the original line-up and they were still playing R&B covers with some of the material from their first album “The Magnificent Moodies” – of which I still have a copy – which including their big hit “Go Now”

There was also a feature on Graham Bond and his new “orchestra” a Mellotron (which cost £975).  It provides a range of instrumental sounds from violin and guitar to piano and trumpet.

He amplifies it through a 50-watt Leslie cabinet, similar to his Hammond. He was keeping both so heaven help the roadie.

The article also noted that bassist Jack Bruce was switching from a Fender six string, which he played through a Vox 100-watt amp, to a string bass. Bond thought “it would fit in better with a lot of gospel-type numbers we will be trying soon”

The magazine contained the usual round-up of music around the British Isles with a survey on Northern Ireland (and those showbands), and the Richmond Jazz Festival.

The Jazz Festival opened with local boys The Yardbirds and The Who (who got a passing mention only). The Animals (playing a Ricky guitar with Vox amps) and  Manfred Mann played some of their more “way out” stuff. The Animals were pleased with their performance as they later supplemented their sound with four saxes and three trumpets from the New Jazz Orchestra and the Dick Morrisey Quartet.

Manfred Mann closed the festival on the Saturday night but it was left to the Animals to close the event with the Impressions‘ song “It’s alright”. For this they were joined on stage by Long John Baldry, Rod Stewart and Julie Driscoll (Steam Packet) and Gary Farr. I wish I’d been there for that 10 minute rendition!

There were a couple of page long features, one about the Byrds, which included David Crosby, (and who’ve had serious problems with their early performances in the US with broken down amps, inadequate microphones and poor guitar balance, something which had also happened in the UK). Elsewhere in the magazine was a piece about the British Birds who were more than annoyed about the Byrds pinching their name.

The other one was about how The Fortunes wanted to stress their vocals after finally getting a hit with “You’ve got your troubles“, to the extent of appearing on Thank Your Lucky Stars on TV without their instruments.

Among the short stories was news that John Lennon had bought a Mellotron (just like Graham Bond) ahead of their US tour, Sonny Bono confessing he only knew seven chords on the piano, and several other musicians looking at replacing pianists with organ players and the like.

A profile on ex-Animals’ organist Alan Price talks about his leaving the Animals, due to ill-health and fear of flying, but also because he wanted to get back to his jazz roots. So keyboards/organs seemed to be on the up.

Even a full-page story about The Beatles return appearance on British TV after being away from live performances filming also featured an organ. The programme was shot in Blackpool and John Lennon was shown playing a Vox keyboard.

This was a variety show in which they performed six songs, although the magazine writer only mentioned one. They opened with “I feel Fine“, then “I’m down” with John on the Vox organ, Ringo sang “Act Naturally“, that was followed by “Ticket to Ride”, Paul then sang “Yesterday” as a solo accompanying himself on acoustic guitar. They finished with their latest song “Help“.

You can see the performance below – or you could until someone blocked it but you can still find it on youtube at https://youtu.be/Qxit-xPfkJI.

It’s interesting to look back and see who was just breaking through and who’s still around.


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Can’t believe that hip-hop has had a bigger influence than the Beatles

vibe_headphones_speakers_1600_wht_5392But that’s what scientists are saying.

Using techniques normally used in evolutionary biology scientists at Imperial College and Cambridge University analysed 17,000 songs from the US Billboard charts between 1960 and 2010.

They gave each song a unique signature based on harmony and timbre and with that were able to trace the rise and fall of different types of music.

They found among other things that tunes using dominant 7th chords became rarer over time. This chord is common in blues and jazz music and reflects their decline. They also looked at “thrashing guitars” associated with rock music.

The scientists found three big changes over the 50 years they examined.

In 1964 the Beatles invasion of America; in 1983 with synth music; and in 1991 with hip-hop.

There is still a lot of diversity in music despite the decline in the 1980s when synthesiser groups like Duran Duran dominated the charts. The scientists consider that revolution the most boring  and it took the hip-hop revolution to change that.

Personally I don’t buy this and would question hip-hop’s influence. But then I’m old-fashioned. I go the the R&B section of a record store still expecting to find John Lee Hooker or Howling Wolf not the pretentious urban music that goes by that label today.

 


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Arthur Alexander – a big influence but little known

SCAN0103 Arthur Alexander, a country and soul singer/songwriter,  was born in Sheffield, Alabama and recorded his first single, “Sally Sue Brown“, under the name of June Alexander (short for Junior), which was released in 1960 on Jud Phillips’ Judd Records. (Phillips is the brother of music pioneer Sam Phillips). It wasn’t a hit.

Alexander then recorded “You Better Move On in 1961 at a former tobacco warehouse-turned-recording studio in Muscle Shoals and it became a soul/R&B chart hit.

It’s perhaps Alexander’s best-known song, covered by the Rolling Stones and the Hollies among others. It also kick-started the studio as the hit factory for soul music combining black singers ad white country musicians.

On the UK release the flip side was “A shot of rhythm and blues” which was covered in the UK by Johnny Kidd and the Pirates who reached no 48 in the charts with it (More on him here). It was also covered by Gerry and the Pacemakers ( a pretty good version) and played live by the Beatles on the BBC.

His next song “Where Have you been (all my life)” wasn’t a hit for him but was covered in the UK by Wayne Fontana and the Mindbenders on their album. The song and its flip-side “Soldier of Love” were sung by the Beatles in their stage act and also on the BBC.

Anna (Go to Him), a U.S. R&B Top Ten Hit, was covered by the Beatles on their first album  “Please Please Me” with John Lennon taking the lead vocal part.

SCAN0101SCAN0104Although he made more records he never quite achieved the fame he probably deserved and gave up performing for a while driving a bus for a living.

Alexander died of a heart attack on 9 June 1993 aged just 53 just a few days after  and appearing in Nashville to promote his comeback album “Lonely just like me”.

He will be remembered as a singer/songwriter whose material was covered by such noteworthy artists as The Rolling Stones, The Who, Esther Phillips, Joe Tex, Marshall Crenshaw, Bob Dylan, Pearl Jam, Ry Cooder, Ike and Tina Turner, Dusty Springfield, Jerry Lee Lewis, and the Beatles.

His songs were also part of the staple diets of aspiring R ‘n’ B and rock groups in the 1960s.  “Where have you been” for example is a song we’ve both performed with different groups and together and its still popular today

I’ve put lots of links to Youtube on here so you can listen to and compare the different versions.


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Please, Please Me – 50 years ago!

Mike the Psych's Blog

P1000827Hard to believe it’s 50 years today since the release of the Beatles first LP “Please, Please Me”.

It was released on Parlophone, 14 tracks of great music all recorded in one day and produced by George Martin.

It’s hard to understand the impact it had on everyone if you weren’t there. The raw fresh sound which heralded the swinging sixties for many people. As Tony Barrow wrote on the back of the LP cover “Their music is wild, pungent, hard-hitting, uninhibited …. and personal”

I wasn’t that keen on their first single “Love Me Do” but the second one, and the title of this LP, “Please Please Me” was for me and many other group members a turning point.

The album starts with an upbeat “I saw her standing there” and finishes with a cover of “Twist & Shout”, always a crowd pleaser for any guitar…

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